The House met at 2:03 p.m.
BOARD OF INTERNAL ECONOMY
Mr. Speaker: I beg to inform the House that I have laid upon the table a copy of an order in council appointing the Honourable Robert G. Eaton, Minister without Portfolio, a member of the Board of Internal Economy in place of the Honourable Robert Bruce McCaffrey.
SAFETY OF OFFICE EQUIPMENT
Mr. Epp: Mr. Speaker, I wish to get up on a point of personal privilege. I do not know whether you are aware that the legislative library is in the process of installing an integrated video display terminal system from Geac. Given that 44 persons will be exposed to this system, two of whom are pregnant, will the Speaker take the responsibility of investigating whether any tests similar to those conducted by the University of Waterloo have been carried out on these terminals?
I wonder whether the Speaker can assure the House that there will be a continuing monitoring system of those terminals once the investigation has been carried out.
Also, if the Speaker is investigating those terminals, which have been indicated to be safe according to the contracts signed by the legislative library, I wonder whether he will seek to find out if, in addition to the X-rays from the terminals, there are any other emissions that might be harmful to the personnel that might be working with the terminals.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the suggestion by the member for Waterloo North and to ask that you look into this matter specifically and most urgently if there are pregnant women who are going to be asked to work on those machines, and to rule very quickly that they be relieved of the obligation to do so and receive the possibility of having other work at the same kind of pay they are receiving now, if that is the case.
As you look at that matter, Mr. Speaker, I commend to you both my own private member's bill on this matter and the collective agreement that was struck between the New Democratic Party caucus here and our caucus staff in terms of the protection of workers operating video display terminals.
Mr. Speaker: I want to thank the member for Waterloo North for bringing this to my attention and the member for Scarborough West for his comments. I assure all members of the House that I will be pleased to look into the matter and report back as quickly as I can.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: Mr. Speaker, on a point of privilege that was first raised by the member for Waterloo North: There are two extra things I would like to raise, having to do with the video display terminals that you were asked to look into.
First, I would like to send you a copy of the collective agreement between the New Democratic Party caucus and its staff. Second, I would ask you to look into the situation in room 121 in the north wing of this building where there is a worker who is pregnant and who has been advised by Xerox not to work on a VDT. She is an employee of the Liberal caucus of this Legislature. I will send the member for Waterloo North a copy of our collective agreement so that she might be protected as well.
Mr. Peterson: Mr. Speaker, there are rather slim pickings here this afternoon, with two or three notable exceptions.
Mr. Nixon: Yes, the member for Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry (Mr. Villeneuve) is here.
Mr. Speaker: The Leader of the Opposition has the floor.
Mr. Peterson: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Minister of Health. In the light of recent press reports that more doctors are taking at least preliminary steps to opt out of medicare -- and I refer him to reports of the Orillia situation, for example, where it was reported last week that as a result of the impasse in negotiations another 18 doctors are considering opting out of Ontario health insurance plan, which would raise the level of opted-out physicians to some 66 per cent in that community -- will the minister tell this House what steps he is prepared to take to make sure that every citizen in Ontario continues to have access to physicians' services at opted-in rates?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Mr. Speaker, I am relying upon the agreement reached between the Ontario government and the Ontario Medical Association some time ago whereby the OMA assured us there would be opted-in services available to every resident of this province. I take them at their word, and I am sure they will honour that undertaking.
Mr. Peterson: I am sure the minister is aware of certain statements, and I quote Dr. Ivan Elkan, president of the Toronto East Medical Society, who said in the context of the present dispute: "On an individual basis, I would not be surprised to see a large number of doctors opting out. That's one weapon that we do have."
What level of opting out is the minister prepared to tolerate and what is he going to do about it if it gets out of hand?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: As I have indicated on earlier days in this House, a level of opting out that begins to threaten the accessibility to our system of all residents of this province is the unacceptable level. When we reach the point at which all residents of this province cannot get opted-in services somewhere in their own community from a physician, then it will be at an intolerable level.
I am still confident that to solve what I hope will be a short-term problem, doctors will not choose to go the route of opting out in large numbers, because that will have rather Draconian results and implications for the entire health care system.
In order to make my answer absolutely clear, there is no magic number. My measure is not numbers; my measure is accessibility. When patients cannot get opted-in services and opted-in physicians treating them, then there is a problem, and in that case I will look to the OMA to honour their clear agreement with this government.
Mr. McClellan: Mr. Speaker, in addition to the matter raised by the Leader of the Opposition, the new doctors opted out in Orillia and obviously the threat of yet more doctors opting out, there is also the threat reported in the papers that there will be five days of rotating strikes by doctors in North Peel and four days of rotating strikes by doctors in the St. Thomas area.
The evidence is clear that the minister's generosity has bought him nothing but additional trouble from the Ontario Medical Association. How much more trouble does he intend to take before he starts to act and protect the integrity of our medical care system?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Mr. Speaker, at present the situation is largely composed of threats. The physicians in this province are faced with the choice of accepting $12,000 increases in their incomes, plus the government's open offer to resume discussions at any time the OMA requests. In those circumstances, a vast majority of doctors will be saying: "Yes, let us not take these kinds of steps. Let us instead resume negotiation."
I might say to my honourable friend the critic for the New Democratic Party that the NDP expressed its concern over rotating strikes throughout the province and asked what we would do. I could not help but be somewhat -- I should not say amused -- interested to read the comments made by the then leader of the NDP, who said as long ago as February 7 that doctors should be allowed to strike for higher fees.
I presume that remains the position of the NDP. If members of that party believe doctors should be allowed to strike for higher fees as their then leader believed, then the member's remarks should be framed in the context of trying to protect what he and his colleagues think is the doctors' right to strike.
As I indicated in my statement, I disagree with the NDP. I do not think the doctors have the right to threaten our health care system by withdrawing services. We, unlike the NDP, will take appropriate steps in the event the health care system of this province is threatened in any way.
Mr. Peterson: Will the minister inform this House whether his assurances with respect to access to health care apply to all specialties in all areas and if he is prepared to make those same assurances?
How does the minister know the doctors will live up to that agreement when they feel he has unilaterally imposed his point of view on them? At one o' clock today, Dr. Moran told a member of my staff that there have been no contacts with the Ministry of Health since March 31, except the minister's statements to the media. The minister is obviously not negotiating. How can we be assured they will live up to their side of the bargain from a previously arrived at decision?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: I happen to trust the OMA. When they enter into an agreement with this government that they will ensure opted-in services are provided to all patients in this province, I am sure they will honour that agreement notwithstanding the current difficulties we are facing over the OHIP schedule of benefits. I take them at their word; the Leader of the Opposition may not.
Mr. Peterson: Too bad it is not mutual.
TAX GRANTS FOR SENIORS
Mr. Peterson: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Minister of Revenue. The minister will be aware that the cost of administering seniors' tax credits by the federal government in 1979 was $2.7 million. This year the cost of administering the seniors' tax grants is $10.87 million. Roughly five times the previous amount is going out by way of administrative expenditures by this government.
How does the minister justify this five times extra expenditure on a program that is not yielding any more results to most people in this province?
Hon. Mr. Ashe: Mr. Speaker, everyone is welcome to his own opinion as to whether the program is delivering more benefits to more people in Ontario.
The statistics show there are considerably more people in Ontario receiving more benefits than under the old program. Important from a delivery perspective, they are being delivered their benefits sooner than they were under the income tax system. They are getting them in the same year rather than in the following year. They are getting them, believe it or not, faster and with fewer errors -- and I know that will be challenged -- than they were under the income tax system.
If any members, particularly members of the second party across there, want to challenge that statistic, I suggest they check with their colleagues in Ottawa to see what the error rate is and was on income tax forms filed by seniors prior to and since the property tax grant.
Regardless of the number of errors we have had, and I have acknowledged in the past and will acknowledge now that we have some, the members opposite will find the actual number of errors by seniors in the completion of the income tax forms has been reduced substantially. They are much easier for seniors to complete.
There is no doubt at all that we have been able to eliminate the necessity of filing income tax forms for a great number of seniors in the province. I think that in itself is a very important change in the delivery system of a very important benefit to seniors in Ontario.
Mr. Peterson: I do not understand how the minister can justify this $8.8-million additional expenditure, unless it is an expenditure for political visibility only, when $1.4 million is going on advertising and another $429,000 in telephone expenditures. When so many ministers are crying out for money and when there are so many badly needed programs going underfunded in the province, how can this minister justify that additional $8.8 million in administrative expense?
Hon. Mr. Ashe: There is not an additional $8.8 million strictly under the heading of administration, and the Leader of the Opposition knows that. There are many parts of a new program that are nonrecurring. For example, we will not be doing the same degree of advertising this year as we did in the past two years, for obvious reasons.
Mr. Ruston: That means there is no election.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Ashe: That's fine; they are using up the clock.
It is too bad the members opposite did not realize that last year the election was on March 19. If they want to see when our advertising budget was spent during the past fiscal year, which only started on April 1, they would see it had nothing to do with the election. It happened to be the second year of a program that was not mature in nature. It happened to be the first year of the program in which the delivery of the benefits was split. In other words, an interim grant was made in the spring of 1981 followed by the final grant, and the advertising was quite justified to inform the seniors about the plan itself.
Believe it or not, I have had a few letters from members opposite suggesting that we are doing nothing to advertise to and contact seniors who may never have applied for the grant. They had better get their act together and be consistent.
Mr. Breaugh: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the minister how come last year he got the grants out by a target date, which I think was around March 19, and this year he does not seem to give a damn about a target date. Why is that?
Hon. Mr. Ashe: Mr. Speaker, if ever there was an irresponsible use of a date statistic, that has to be it. Obviously the honourable member did not research that statement before he made it off the cuff. If he looked into it he would find that once again last year, as in the advertising budget, the interim grant cheques went well beyond the date of March 19. They were sent out on April 6, one year ago today, well beyond the realities of the March 19 date the members opposite are fond of using. It had nothing to do with the election; there is no doubt one of the reasons they were not out earlier was that we did not want to influence the electorate in any way whatsoever.
Hon. Mr. Ashe: We sent it out on April 6 at my direction and my instruction. There is no doubt it is a little later; the interim cheques will be going out just a little less than five weeks later. Specifically, our target date is May 10. The reason we are doing it is to make sure we have updated all our base data and incorporated all the changes that are regularly fed into our system. Last year we had a 97 per cent accuracy rate; this year we want 99.9 per cent.
Mr. Wrye: Mr. Speaker, the minister will be aware that in answer to my inquiry he said a second application form was not sent automatically to those seniors who did not return the original application.
Why is it that this government has done nothing about the 25,000 seniors who have not returned their applications? He knows full well that most of those seniors are probably in the lower-income brackets, since wealthier citizens have rarely missed any tax advantage.
Why is he not trying to find out who these 25,000 seniors across the province are, since they are very likely the ones who are most in need of financial assistance?
Hon. Mr. Ashe: Mr. Speaker, there is the inconsistency again. One of the reasons for advertising was to make sure that people were aware of the program. On the other side of the coin, if we once again contact all of these people and send out new applications, we would be criticized for increasing the administration costs. Let us be consistent.
When we become aware, through any way, of seniors who have not applied and should have, we get back to them again and find out what happened. Did they lose it, did they destroy it or did they misunderstand it? Believe it or not, we have had seniors to whom we have sent out a second application and it has not come back. As a matter of fact, in those cases, we are following them up individually to see what happened the second time. In most cases they have been generated because of a client inquiry or through a member in some instances. So we are following up on them.
I think it is completely realistic that the numbers are down. There are a group of people who are no longer with us to apply, and obviously that is why the applications did not come back. Also there is no doubt that in 1980 there was an abundance of applications that ended up being for nonqualified people. During 1982, the second year of the program, obviously the applications are a little more sophisticated and so are the applicants.
USE OF STRIKEBREAKERS
Mr. Foulds: I have a new question, Mr. Speaker; I have just two --
Mr. Havrot: Look at the tan.
Mr. Wrye: Sunny Jim.
Mr. Foulds: Just a living advertisement for the benefits of solar power.
Mr. Ruston: Sunny south.
Mr. Bradley: How are things in Cuba?
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Foulds: In spite of the heckling I have a question, Mr. Speaker, that I dreamed up in the independent country of Antigua, which has, by the way, a Labour Party government. I would like to ask the Minister of Colleges and Universities --
Mr. T. P. Reid: Why didn't you just stay in paradise?
Mr. Foulds: Oh, jealousy will get you nowhere.
My question is about one of the ministry's agencies which the government has funded to the tune of more than $5 million last year, the Ontario College of Art. I wonder whether the minister is aware that this body apparently hired Securicor Investigation and Security Ltd. on March 26, just four days prior to the present strike by Local 576 of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.
In view of the answer by the Solicitor General (Mr. G. W. Taylor) yesterday and his commitment to broaden the Ontario Provincial Police investigation into Securicor's activities, will the minister welcome a broadening of the OPP investigation into Securicor's activities with regard to the strike at OCA?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Mr. Speaker, if I can just overcome my envy of the gorgeous tan that the honourable member is sporting as a result of his lolling in the sun of southern islands while the rest of us were here slaving away --
An hon. member: There are some advantages to being in the opposition, you know.
Mr. Speaker: Having said that --
Hon. Miss Stephenson: I am aware that on March 26, without knowledge of the problems that have been raised related to that security firm, OCA did hire the firm. I wish to report to the member that I am in strong support of anything which the Solicitor General suggests in terms of investigation, but I also want the member to know that last night, at the board meeting, OCA discharged that firm from their employ.
Mr. Foulds: Can the minister confirm that the Securicor firm has been discharged? Our information is that half an hour ago Securicor was still on the job. Is the minister aware that the firm had engaged in harassment of the workers and surveillance of the workers back and forth to their homes? Can she tell us who took the decision to pay taxpayers' money to this firm and how much it was paid?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: I am sorry I cannot provide that detailed information, which I think would be more appropriately a question on the Order Paper, but I can tell the member that the decision was taken by the board last evening to discharge Securicor. I am sure that is in the process of being carried out.
Mr. Mackenzie: Mr. Speaker, is the minister aware that the one central issue in the strike is the right to grieve unjust dismissal -- a fundamental right in most agreements? Given that this was the issue of the strike, what possible justification was there for hiring Securicor in this situation in the first place? Given that the issue is such a fundamental one, does the minister not think she could put a little pressure on to see that the strike is settled very quickly?
Hon. Miss Stephenson: Mr. Speaker, I am aware of some of the issues involved in that strike, including the fact that I gather a significant number of those on strike are students at the Ontario College of Art, who function part-time as both models and monitors within the program. I am not aware of the grievance procedure being the only significant issue within the dispute that is going on. I shall make it my business to investigate more fully the list of issues that seem to be outstanding.
Mr. Foulds: Mr. Speaker, in the absence of the Minister of the Environment (Mr. Norton), I would like to place a question to the Solicitor General as the minister responsible for public safety and spills -- chemical spills and otherwise.
With regard to the Junction triangle area and the spill at Bloor and Lansdowne, has the government yet ascertained the source of the spill? Are chemicals still being discharged? Has the ministry found the violator? What steps are planned to protect the residents of the area from any possible danger?
Hon. G. W. Taylor: Mr. Speaker, if I might direct the member's question to the Provincial Secretary for Resources Development, he has that answer. I believe he received it from the Ministry of the Environment and would like to answer that question on my behalf.
Hon. Mr. Henderson: Mr. Speaker, at 4:58 a.m. the Toronto fire department phoned the Ministry of the Environment to report a chemical odour in the Junction triangle area of Toronto. Our duty officer then phoned Mr. Leo Butko of the Environment staff, who moved on site early this morning. There are now two MOE staff, Mr. Butko and Mr. Haldane, on site as well as the Metro police and Toronto fire department.
At 7:30, it was agreed to recommend the closure of the nearby Perth Avenue School until the Ministry of Labour advised otherwise. The fire department tested for explosive properties, and the levels are well below explosive capacity.
The odour problem appears to have passed, but MOE is sending two mobile air monitoring units from our air resources branch to the site. We are checking with the two industries in the area possibly responsible through a chemical leak, these being Nacan Products Ltd. and Glidden Co. Ltd.
The Minister of the Environment is in his home riding today for the funeral of the wife of former member Syl Apps this afternoon. He will be back Thursday and will be glad to answer further questions on this item.
Mr. Foulds: Can the provincial secretary tell us now, or make sure the Minister of the Environment tells us on Thursday, whether the government is examining the possibility that this was an intentional discharge that got out of control -- because I understand there are allowable intentional discharges according to Metro and city bylaws -- or whether it was an entirely accidental discharge? Also, is the ministry not aware that there are more than two possible sources of the discharge?
Finally, is the government aware that Ministry of the Environment officials are telling residents of the area at this time that they still do not know any source and that they cannot tell the residents any action they should take to protect themselves until tomorrow? What is the government going to do to protect the residents from any possible hazards?
Hon. Mr. Henderson: While the minister will answer fully on Thursday, I have just spoken with the staff of the ministry and there is no guarantee that it came from either of the plants I have named. There is no guarantee that somebody did not take a load of something and dump it in the sewers there. We think it is these two plants, but the Ministry of the Environment staff are on the site and conducting tests.
There is no danger at the moment. This morning the fire department did flush what we believe is the dangerous material down the sewers. We do not believe there is a danger, but we have staff there and the Metropolitan Toronto Police are there as well.
Mr. Foulds: Have people been sent to the hospital?
Hon. Mr. Henderson: I can't hear you.
Mr. Speaker: Order. I think you have already answered the question.
Mr. Ruprecht: Mr. Speaker, I am the member for this area, and I think the Provincial Secretary for Resources Development knows full well that while the potential violations of this spill could be handled under the Environmental Protection Act they could be more adequately handled by the spills bill, which received third reading in December 1979 and yet 28 months later still has not been proclaimed. Can the minister explain why the spills bill has not yet been proclaimed and when this bill, which was designed for incidents such as this, will be proclaimed?
Hon. Mr. Henderson: Mr. Speaker, I will refer that question to the minister. He will be glad to answer fully when he is here on Thursday.
Mr. Charlton: Mr. Speaker, according to one of the staff members of the Ministry of the Environment on the scene, one of the chemicals released into the sewers is vinyl acetate, a very flammable substance. According to the city of Toronto bylaws that allow for periodic discharges into the sewer system, no flammables are permitted to be discharged even in periodic small discharges.
Will the minister see that the Ministry of the Environment investigates in this case why a flammable substance such as vinyl acetate had access to the sewer system, which is supposed to be precluded under the bylaws?
Hon. Mr. Henderson: Mr. Speaker, I think I answered that in my original answer. I made it quite clear that we know there is something there that is not legal and not acceptable. The fire department flushed it down. Two members of the staff of the Ministry of the Environment are on standby, and the Metropolitan Toronto Police are there. If it can be found that somebody did it deliberately, there certainly will be prosecutions.
FOOD INDUSTRY PRACTICES
Mr. Riddell: Mr. Speaker, in the absence of the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Elgie), I wish to direct my question to the Provincial Secretary for Justice.
Is the minister aware that Dominion Stores Ltd. and Steinberg Inc. have recently combined their buying clout through the formation of a buying group known as Volume One, whose only purpose is to extract greater discounts and allowances from food suppliers? Is the minister concerned about this rapid concentration of buying power among the major chains that have all formed buying groups, which, through the decline of competition in this area, will eventually lead to higher food costs to consumers and a reduction in food suppliers?
What action is the minister taking to monitor this situation? Will he assure us that appropriate legislation will be introduced, such as we in the Liberal Party and the Ontario Federation of Agriculture have proposed, to protect the producers and small processors and grocers in the province from unfair trading practices?
Hon. Mr. Sterling: Mr. Speaker, unfortunately I am not aware of the merger except through the newspaper accounts this morning and I cannot answer on behalf of the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. I will forward the question to him. I am certain he is concerned about the matter. However, I cannot answer in terms of the remedial action he might take.
Mr. Riddell: I feel this is an issue the government is certainly going to have to come to grips with. It just cannot continue. Can the minister indicate to us what specific action has been taken concerning the recommendations contained in the report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Discounting and Allowances in the Food Industry in Ontario, since he and his colleagues have surely had time to study this $500,000 report of 1980 by now?
Why has the watchdog mechanism to monitor discounting practices, as was recommended in the report, not been established? Why has the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations not taken on the task of policing trade practices in the food industry, which task was to have been transferred from the Ontario Food Council when it was disbanded in 1978? Is the minister not aware that food suppliers are in a worse situation today than when that inquiry was established back in 1980?
Hon. Mr. Sterling: As I indicated before, the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations is unfortunately away from the Legislature this afternoon. In fact, he is at a funeral. I did receive a copy of a letter he had written to the federal Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs very recently, asking him to look into the matter in terms of whether the action contravenes the Combines Investigation Act and to report to him on that. Unfortunately I cannot respond to the member's question in relation to the previous report. I will pass that along to the minister.
Mr. MacDonald: Mr. Speaker, when the Provincial Secretary for Justice looks into this matter, either on his own or in conjunction with the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, will he take steps to do something about the royal commission report? The Ontario Federation of Agriculture suggested to the government that the report should not even be accepted because it was so totally inadequate, and the thing drifted into limbo and nothing has happened over a two-year period.
Will the provincial secretary take the initiative in terms of a policy enunciation to establish at the provincial level something in the unfair business practices area that will come to grips with the discounts and allowances, since the royal commission and all previous efforts have been totally abortive in coming to grips with this problem?
Hon. Mr. Sterling: Mr. Speaker, I will certainly be glad to bring this to the attention of the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. I am certain that, as expressed by his letter, he is concerned about this particular situation. The minister has held that particular portfolio for only a short period of time. He will, of course, as a result of the member's question, look into this matter and report to him.
MENTAL HEALTH CARE
Mr. McClellan: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Health (Mr. Grossman). If he has left, I will direct it to the Provincial Secretary for Social Development. Is she aware that the body of the woman found on the beach of Lake Ontario was identified this morning as that of Margaret Daniel, the patient who has been missing from the Whitby Psychiatric Hospital since March 15? After this fourth death in a year and a half, can the minister now assure us a full public inquiry will take place into problems within the mental health care system in this province?
Hon. Mrs. Birch: Mr. Speaker, the latest knowledge I have is that the body of the woman has not been identified and that they are awaiting some dental checks to be done later today. I have no further information on the identification of that body.
Mr. McClellan: Since we are informed by the coroner that the identification has been positively made, surely the minister will agree that, rather than look at the problems a death at a time, inquest by inquest, we should put a halt to this procedure and immediately commission a full, independent public inquiry that can focus the best minds available in the mental health community on the obviously serious, critical problems in our provincial mental health care system?
Hon. Mrs. Birch: I think the member will agree there are many areas of concern to the government in the mental health field. We are attempting to address those concerns in many different ways in regard to the Queen Street Mental Health Centre situation, Whitby Psychiatric Hospital and the mental health system in Ontario in general.
We are all concerned when situations like this occur, but I think the honourable member will agree that, no matter how excellent the system is, we will unfortunately always have tragedies such as the one that has just occurred.
Mr. Conway: Mr. Speaker, we now have evidence of a confirmed fourth victim, indicating again the tragedy that is taking place daily in our troubled mental health care system. Since the minister is not prepared to accept the advice of the member for Bellwoods and commission a public inquiry into this disaster area, what specifically is she going to tell this House and the people of Ontario she is going to do, as the senior policy secretary for the social development field, to give effect to this wide, sweeping and platitudinous concern she has yet again drawn to our attention?
Hon. Mrs. Birch: Mr. Speaker, I think the honourable member is making a lot of assumptions that are not necessarily true. I would like to point out to him again that, no matter how excellent the system is, the very nature of the problems these people have make it impossible to ensure no one is going to commit suicide and that tragedies are not going to occur. I think he should be more realistic about the situation. Of course we are concerned and of course we will try to remedy the situation as best we can and in the best way humanly possible, but I am not going to suggest we will be able to prevent everyone in this province from committing suicide.
GREAT LAKES FOREST AGREEMENT
Mr. J. A. Reed: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Natural Resources concerning the three-year saga of the government's mediation process with the Whitedog Indian band regarding mercury health claims.
As the minister will recall, the province agreed in 1979 to assume liabilities in excess of $15 million against Great Lakes Paper Co. for environmental damage caused by mercury. He will also recall the province revised its position but finally clarified it on February 9, 1982, 38 months after mediation began.
Would the minister indicate why Great Lakes has now refused to meet with the negotiators for the Indian band, arguing it cannot make an offer because of the inadequacies of its internal purchase agreement with Reed Ltd.? Is it true that the Great Lakes private agreement with Reed to share the first $15 million of liabilities is enforceable only by a court decision and not through a voluntary mediation settlement?
Hon. Mr. Pope: Mr. Speaker, the last part of the question is difficult to assess. In terms of the enforceability of the memorandum of understanding and the actions of the parties pursuant to it since the time of its signature, there is a presumption of it being a binding contract and we would presume legal steps would not have to be taken to enforce compliance under the terms of the memorandum of agreement.
Unfortunately I am not able to help the member with respect to the time frame. I am not in charge of the negotiations on behalf of the province nor have I been directly involved in the meetings that have taken place. I think the chairman of the resources development policy field has been involved in that and may be able to assist the member. I do know it has been a protracted negotiation session. There has been about --
Mr. Kerrio: It is a sellout.
Hon. Mr. Pope: No, it is not a sellout at all. A number of resource allocation issues have been involved in that process and our staff have been involved in giving advice to the negotiating team. A lot of those issues have been resolved. We started off with some 30 issues that had to be resolved with respect to financial matters and resource allocation matters. Most of them have been resolved.
With respect to the status of the memorandum of understanding and the payment of the $15 million, some of those matters would be before the minister who has been in charge of those negotiations. I really could not assist the member with any accuracy.
Mr. J. A. Reed: I am astounded the Minister of Natural Resources is not closely involved with this issue. The whole thing involves Natural Resources. Could I redirect a supplementary to the Provincial Secretary for Resources Development?
Mr. Speaker: No.
Mr. J. A. Reed: All right. I will ask my supplementary of the minister. Hopefully he will be able to answer and be apprised of at least part of the issue.
The federal government has now settled with the Whitedog band and Ontario Hydro has reached a settlement that will be signed in the next two weeks. We are now in the 39th month of the mediation process. Why is the province now arguing that it has no legal responsibility, when it knows its responsibility is a moral one in the mercury pollution process? Why is it refusing to make any financial contribution to the Indian band? Why does the province not settle with the band on the four major outstanding issues that still need to be negotiated?
Hon. Mr. Pope: We have been trying to resolve all the outstanding issues. I indicated there is a long list of issues. A lot of the settlements the member just discussed with respect to the federal government and Ontario Hydro came about through the provincial government's interventions on some of the agreements it was a party to.
Mr. J. A. Reed: Why is the minister hanging back?
Hon. Mr. Pope: No, we are not hanging back. We are attempting to resolve the issues as we have been all along. It is very difficult. We are working as hard as we can and have been working very hard for the last year to try to wrap it up.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Mr. Laughren: Mr. Speaker, surely the Minister of Natural Resources will agree he has substantial leverage when dealing with the pulp and paper companies in northwestern Ontario or anywhere else in Ontario? Is he not prepared to use that leverage to make sure justice is done?
Hon. Mr. Pope: Mr. Speaker, we have been trying to assure justice is done both through this process and through other processes we have been involved with in the council organizations in northwestern Ontario and through all of northern Ontario. We have been using all the influence we can exert in order to try to bring about a settlement of the matter.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Order.
Mr. Renwick: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: Will the Deputy Premier advise the Premier (Mr. Davis) that he undertook to the House on March 29 to answer the questions put by the member, and the supplementaries which were put, as a result of a question I asked on this very topic?
Hon. Mr. Welch: Mr. Speaker, I would be glad to communicate that request to the Premier. However, the minister responsible for these negotiations is the Provincial Secretary for Resources Development. If the member would like some information my colleague is prepared to share it with him and the House even this afternoon.
CHILDREN'S MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES
Mr. R. F. Johnston: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community and Social Services, regarding mental health services for children in the province and specifically for francophone children.
Last year I raised the concern about Ontario children being cared for in the Maison Rouyn in Quebec because we do not have suitable facilities in Ontario. Is the minister aware that this year there are still 25 Franco-Ontarian children, 19 from northeastern Ontario, in that facility? Those kids are there for between two and two and a half years because they are very severely disturbed.
Will he commit funds in Ontario for long-term mental health care for French-speaking children in northeastern Ontario? Will he take part of that 19 per cent that he promised and put it into children's mental health centres in northeastern Ontario for severely disturbed children?
Hon. Mr. Drea: Mr. Speaker, first of all, I already have. A new children's mental health centre which offers bilingual services opened on March 31 of this year in North Bay.
Second, in the area represented by the Liberal critic, in eastern Ontario, I already have opened the first children's mental health centre for francophones. That is in direct relation to the member's question because he was talking about children being sent to a very excellent, I may say, facility in Quebec.
I notice the member did not ask me when the eastern Ontario population was going to disappear from there. We are very hopeful, with the steps we are taking in eastern Ontario, we can remove the eastern Ontario population from there.
In regard to northeastern Ontario, as the member knows, there is a shortage in this province of professional people for the treatment of francophone children with mental health disabilities. I am prepared to put money into the area to attract professional staff and it will only be when there is professional staff there that we can really begin to treat in the area.
In the meantime, we would be extremely foolish to not send children from Cochrane South and so forth over to Rouyn rather than bring them down to Sudbury.
As the honourable member knows, I wanted to start -- and so did a community group want to start -- the very beginnings of something in the Timmins area particularly, a multi-purpose centre. As he knows, we were run out of town. There is a limit to what the minister can really do in making a beginning when the community is so hostile that it will not give us a place.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: First, to dispel some of the notion that the minister has provided an answer to the problem with the Nipissing centre, let it be clear that the Nipissing centre is an outpatient facility that is not dealing with severely disturbed children. In fact, there are 90 kids already on their list and at their maximum capacity they will be able to deal with only 50, as the minister well knows. It is no answer.
M. Jacques Turgeon, director of the Maison Rouyn, has heard nothing about what is going to happen to the kids from eastern Ontario, so I will wait to hear from the minister when that is actually in place.
Is the minister aware, as he has just indicated he was, that there are no French group homes in the Timmins area? There is one child in a supposedly bilingual group home in that area. Is he aware that M. Turgeon of the Maison Rouyn wants to establish a group home in the Timmins area for kids coming out of Maison Rouyn to re-establish them in the community? He has asked to meet with the minister's officials next week.
What is the minister's position on that? Will he be supporting the establishment of a group home sponsored by the Maison Rouyn; or will he be moving to bring into northeastern Ontario the kind of facilities that should be established there, that is long-term care in Ontario for Ontario kids?
Hon. Mr. Drea: It is a very interesting question. If I say yes to either one I am damned and if I say no to either one I am damned. The member is not quite as smart as he thinks he is.
I would be absolutely delighted to look at using the outreach services of that particular children's mental health centre in Quebec. It would be interesting to have a look at that, but it would be on the basis that we do intend to build our own, or to arrange our own over the long term.
If we could take advantage for a period of time of the professional capabilities -- and they certainly have them in the centre at Rouyn because it is a prime resource and it is close -- I would be a fool not to, but I will say that we have to establish, one way or the other, professional residential services in northeastern Ontario. I intend to do it.
Mr. Foulds: When?
Hon. Mr. Drea: With the member's charming little thing about the Nipissing centre, the name of the game -- and it was invented by the party opposite -- was why were we not into more prevention, more early detection, more nonresidential and more home care? Now the member sits here today and sneers at what is going on in the Nipissing centre.
TORONTO WESTERN HOSPITAL
Ms. Copps: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Minister of Health. The executive director of the Toronto Western Hospital told the Liberal health committee last Wednesday that a woman outpatient, suffering a potential suspected breast tumour, could have to wait up to three months before she could even undergo exploratory surgery in his hospital. Does the minister feel that this time lapse, attributed to bed shortages and lack of equipment, is acceptable?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Mr. Speaker, I do not know the particulars of that case, obviously, but as I am sure the new critic has learned by now, if there is a medically necessary procedure the hospitals operate in such a fashion, particularly an esteemed hospital such as the Toronto Western Hospital, that any medically necessary procedure will be done immediately. The member knows that.
Ms. Copps: I am surprised the minister does not have the details of that particular incident since he had somebody from the Ministry of Health monitoring all our hearings that day.
I am sure if the minister goes back to his representative from the Ministry of Health he will be able to read from his verbatim notes that the director also said that in some instances the delay could mean the difference between saving a breast and having a mastectomy. He also agreed it may mean the difference between life and death. Does the minister feel this situation is acceptable? If not, what is he going to do about it?
Hon. Mr. Grossman: Since I do not have the verbatim details of whatever happened at the member's committee meeting, may I say that the administrator of that hospital, Mr. McAulay, who is well known to the medical community and very esteemed, I am absolutely sure would not have held out to the member that it was a reality that someone who needed medical attention was not getting it and could not get it because of a bed shortage. He runs his hospital in such a way that it is renowned, not only throughout Ontario but throughout North America, as a well run hospital.
I have no problem in saying there is no chance that anyone who needed attention immediately, and who was running a severe risk of serious disease or death in the event medical attention was not provided immediately, would not get that attention. That is not the way the system works. That administrator particularly, and most of our administrators throughout this province, and all of our physicians I might add, under any circumstances would not allow that to happen. That is not the way the system works. Appropriate provision is made in that hospital and in other hospitals to make sure that emergency cases, medically necessary cases, are admitted and treated and that is done exactly when and where the physician says it is needed. That is simply the case.
Ms. Copps: On a point of privilege, Mr. Speaker: If the minister is implying that I am misleading this House I would ask that he withdraw his statement because I have Mr. McAulay on tape.
Mr. Mackenzie: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Minister of Labour. Is he aware that SCM (Canada) Ltd. will lay off, in May, 150 workers at its Scarborough typewriter plant? He must be aware that the decision was made and announced in the United States. He must be aware that this confirms once again the general deindustrialization going on in Ontario and the shift in Ontario from production to warehousing.
Given that situation, what is the minister going to do to protect these jobs and keep the production in Ontario rather than exporting jobs and importing typewriters?
Hon. Mr. Ramsay: Mr. Speaker, I am aware of the situation the member for Hamilton East has brought to our attention this afternoon. It is a very weighty question. It is a circumstance that runs parallel to the severe economic decline this country is experiencing at this time. I do not think we are going to see too much improvement until the economy improves. We are hoping that will be some time towards the end of this year.
Mr. Mackenzie: Surely the minister must be aware that wiping out our deficit in the typewriter trade alone in Ontario would be more than sufficient to protect these jobs. Will he now help to establish a justification process to make foreign companies like SCM publicly justify their arbitrary decision to shift production out of Canada to the United States?
Hon. Mr. Ramsay: The ministry has no plans at this time to initiate a justification process.
Mr. Wrye: Mr. Speaker, given the continuing export of jobs from Ontario into the United States and given the loss of employment to workers, will the minister -- I believe he was a member of the select committee on plant shutdowns and employee adjustment -- urge his cabinet colleagues to support a reintroduction of the select committee at the earliest possible opportunity so we may look at what policy options are open to Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Ramsay: It is true I was a member of that committee, and I felt it did some very useful and worthwhile work, not because I was a member of the committee but because of the findings the committee presented. The Ministry of Labour did act on some of the recommendations that were made then.
That time was probably one of the most traumatic two months of my experience in that there were some terrible stories and illustrations brought before the committee. I say this not to embarrass the member for Hamilton East but to his credit: I can remember on one occasion, when a particularly sad circumstance was brought to our attention, I looked over and the honourable member had genuine tears in his eyes. I know there were others of us around the table who felt much the same way.
The point I am trying to make is that it does not take another plant closure committee, it does not take another two months of illustrations such as we had last time, to convince me or anybody else in this government of the problem. We know what the problem is. We have to find solutions for the problem.
Mr. Van Horne: Mr. Speaker, I have a question of the Minister of Natural Resources. In view of the statement made by the minister on March 12 regarding the establishment of a committee to examine forest utilization practices in the industry in Ontario, surely the minister is aware of the in-house committee on wasteful practices, a committee of his ministry established in 1978 because of the concerns of his own ministry foresters. Surely the minister is aware that many of the topics listed for study in his release of March 12 are the same topics as were studied by that in-house committee.
First, will the minister release that in-house committee report from the study of 1978; second, how much longer does he have to study utilization practices and wasteful practices before he acts on them?
Hon. Mr. Pope: Mr. Speaker, we have acted on wasteful practices. We have acted on utilization. If the honourable member had taken the time to go through the forest management agreement process and the forest management agreements that had been executed and the impact in terms of utilization in both the short term and the long term and the protection for sensitive environmental concerns; if he had taken the time to look at the hybrid poplar program and its impact on utilization and the research work we are doing to lead the world in fast-growing species, including hardwoods and their effect on utilization, the member would be quite confident that all of those activities dovetail with an out-of-house program that is now going on to examine wasteful practices. Additional utilization applications in the field will give effect to the very work we have been doing.
Mr. Van Horne: The minister very artfully dodged the question, which was, will he release the report? He has not answered that question. Is he going to leave the schedule of charges unchanged, as it has been since 1952, until he finishes this new study? And what about the first question? Is he going to release the in-house report?
Hon. Mr. Pope: If I am having people look at the whole area, why would I change the level of charges before they have even looked at it?
The answer to the first part of the question is that as soon as we establish some changes in policies, we will release them to the members and provide any information we can.
Mr. Speaker: Final supplementary; the member for Rainy River.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: No, no, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. T. P. Reid: Mr. Speaker, the minister --
Mr. Speaker: Order. The member for Nickel Belt.
Mr. Kerrio: He wasn't up quick enough.
Mr. Speaker: Yes, he was. I just didn't see him.
Mr. Laughren: Mr. Speaker, some of us have read the forest management agreements; so I do not think the minister should use that argument on us.
I assume the minister is familiar with the report from Lakehead University which said: "If sustained yield exploitation of the forest resource is the goal of the people of Ontario, the existing demand-supply situation requires restraint on mills' wood demands. Additional manufacturing capacity should only be installed if existing facilities can be adapted (through higher pulp yields or wood chip use or greater hardwood utilization) or retired to free up wood currently required by the industry at 'normal' operating levels."
Does the minister not agree that this is a very sensible and practical approach to the supply crisis? Will he tell us very specifically what he intends to do to get industry to increase pulp yields and to increase wood chip use and hardwood utilization so that jobs in the forest industry will be protected, not just now but in the years to come?
Hon. Mr. Pope: One of the things we have done to protect jobs now and in the future in the forest products industry is the series of modernization grants that we, along with the federal government, gave to the pulp and paper industry; they protected 1,800 jobs in my community of Iroquois Falls and thousands of jobs throughout northern Ontario.
The member shakes his head. He would have taken a chance on it. I know what his party's policy is; it is to nationalize the resource industry. They will not nationalize the manufacturing sector because of job security but they will nationalize the resource sector because they do not care about job security. I understand the party's policy, and so do the people of northern Ontario.
I am glad that study agrees with the research work and the initiative that this ministry has taken with respect to the use of hybrid poplar, with respect to utilization in pulp and paper, with respect to the Domtar arrangement and with respect to the fast-growing species we are doing work on. Why are we doing it? Because we agree we should be exploring other species and fuller utilization of the trees to increase our capacities without licensing more land.
Mr. T. P. Reid: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: Before the Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller) leaves, in view of the fact that day after day we are hearing about the decline of the Ontario economy, and in view of the fact that it has now become apparent -- or leaked perhaps by the Treasurer -- that May 4 is going to be the budget day, does he not feel he should tell the people of Ontario when the budget is going to come down?
Mr. Speaker: That is not a point of order.
Mr. T. P. Reid: Will he provide some indication when we can expect some guidance and direction from this government?
Mr. Speaker: Order.
TAX GRANTS FOR SENIORS
Mr. Peterson: On a point of privilege, Mr. Speaker: You will recall that I was involved in discussion with the Minister of Revenue (Mr. Ashe) with respect to the seniors' grants, and I want to quote him from Instant Hansard of today. He said, with respect to the advertising expenditures: "It is too bad the honourable members opposite did not realize that last year the election was on March 19. If they want to see when our advertising budget was spent during the past fiscal year, which only started April 1, they would see that it had nothing to do with an election."
I would like to refer members to Hansard of December 5, 1980, when then Minister of Revenue (Mr. Maeck) was discussing the expenditures for the seniors' program. He revealed the cost at that point to be $2,978,300, which included an advertising cost of $934,000. I believe the minister probably inadvertently misled the House with respect to advertising prior to the election. He probably wants to stand up and correct the inappropriate impression he gave this House.
Hon. Mr. Ashe: No, Mr. Speaker. The answers I gave were correct and accurate. We are talking about two different fiscal years. The expenditures in the fiscal year 1980-81 were in the fall of 1980, upon the introduction of the program, and again would have preceded the election by a considerable number of months.
ONTARIO ENERGY INVESTMENT
Mr. Ruston: On a point of privilege, Mr. Speaker: I understand that the Deputy Premier (Mr. Welch) was on television saying what a great deal Suncor was for the people of Canada and Ontario. If it is so great, I wonder why he had a reclaiming truck come in the other night and haul away hundreds of pounds of the Suncor issue printed by the Conservative caucus. If it is so great, why did he not send these out to the public instead of having them burned?
Hon. Mr. Welch: Mr. Speaker, I do not know what the honourable member is talking about. I think the member has jumped to certain conclusions which are not necessarily consistent with the facts. I do not know. I will be glad to get some explanation.
Mr. Speaker: Order. It is not a point of privilege anyway.
SITTING OF THE HOUSE
Hon. Mr. Gregory moved that when the House adjourns at 6 p.m. on Thursday next, it stands adjourned until 2 p.m. on Tuesday, April 13, 1982.
Motion agreed to.
INTRODUCTION OF BILL
ONTARIO SAFE DRINKING WATER ACT
Mr. Charlton moved, seconded by Mr. Cooke, first reading of Bill 45, An Act to protect and enhance the Quality of Drinking Water in Ontario.
Motion agreed to.
Mr. Charlton: Mr. Speaker, the bill is intended to protect and enhance drinking water quality in Ontario. It provides opportunities for public involvement in the making of regulations to set maximum permissible levels for contaminants and other substances in drinking water. These regulations would apply to both public and private water supplies.
The operator of a public water system is required to monitor water quality regularly and to notify the users of the system, as well as the Minister of the Environment, of the result. Any user of a private water system may have the water tested by the Ministry of the Environment.
It is an offence for the operator of a public water system to provide water that contravenes the regulation or to fail to comply with monitoring and notice requirements. It is an offence for anyone to pollute a public or private water system.
The bill permits water users to sue to recover damages for contravention of the act and give the person standing to seek judicial review against the Minister of the Environment. The minister is authorized to commission research into matters related to drinking water quality, and an advisory council is created to assist the minister.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
House in committee of supply.
SUPPLEMENTARY ESTIMATES, MINISTRY OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (CONCLUDED)
On vote 1402, administrative services program:
Mr. Chairman: Just before I recognize the member for Welland-Thorold (Mr. Swart), I would like to bring to the House's attention that, for those of you who have been paying much attention, the chair, namely, myself as chairman, and my assistants have had difficulties from time to time determining the scope and line of questioning that members opposite have been directing to appropriate ministers.
It is my understanding that in the past supplementary estimates have not had the amount of discussion that seems to be taking place in more recent years. As a result, it leaves the chair in an embarrassing position of trying to decide on the scope of questioning.
After consultation with our advisers, if there is no further discussion with members of all parties, I am going to direct a letter to the Chairman of Management Board of Cabinet (Mr. McCague) suggesting that the chair would find it most appropriate if the ministers could be a little more explicit on the introduction of supplementary estimates so that the chair at least would be able to make the appropriate rulings on the scope of discussion and whether questions are within those authorized under supplementary estimates.
Mr. Nixon: Mr. Chairman, I would just like to say a word about your comments, because I think they are extremely helpful. I would point out, however, that it seems to be in the minds of the representatives of the government that these supplementary estimates should be passed before the end of the fiscal year, which is why they insisted on proceeding with them right after the opening of the Legislature rather than going forward with the debate on the speech from the throne.
The fact that they were not carried by the end of the fiscal year does not seem now to have made any difference. As a matter of fact, we are a number of days past. While they do form a rather useful and important vehicle for members on all sides to express their views early in a session on a whole variety of ministries, and for the expenditure in this instance of more than $250 million, still it seems to me that if they are not necessary for the end of the fiscal year they could very well be referred to the committee with the regular estimates that will be brought down in the next few days in any event.
While I would not for a moment like the House to forgo the right to debate supplementary estimates, it seems to me that it might be wise in the planning at another time for the supplementaries to be referred to committee along with regular estimates, and we would not have to go over these important matters more than three or four times.
Mr. Stokes: Mr. Chairman, I agree wholeheartedly with what you have said. I think the problem that has arisen is a result of the inability or the unwillingness of many of the ministers over there. To deal with the very first one, the Minister of Government Services (Mr. Wiseman), when asked to make an opening comment on the amount of money that was required and the specific area for which it was to be spent, declined to do so, which seemed to have set the pattern for all of these estimates.
The other thing that causes some problem for members is that a concurrence motion, which comes when a regular estimate is reported back to the House, is quite a bit different from a supplementary estimate. A concurrence motion gives members on all sides of the House an opportunity to speak on a variety of subjects within a two-and-a-half-hour time frame, as opposed to supplementary estimates where the ministers are coming in and asking for additional sums for specific uses within the ministry.
The point the Chairman raises is one that the Chairman of Management Board, and all ministers submitting supplementary estimates to this committee, should take under advisement. If they do not, they just invite the kind of thing we have had for the past week here in supplementary estimates.
The point made by the House leader of the Liberal Party has a good deal of validity, and I would hope that the Chairman would follow that course of action. But the onus is on those ministers who bring in these supplementary estimates to be much more specific than they have been up to this point.
Mr. Chairman: I have just been advised by the table that the standing committee on procedural affairs is apparently looking at some aspects of supply. Unfortunately, knowing the ways of the world here, the process suggested by the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk (Mr. Nixon) may be a little slow. As a result, it would be expedient to follow my procedure to try to help things along until such time as we get the other process under way.
In any event, what my assistant and I will be attempting to do, with the best unbiased impartiality possible, is to try to help supplementary estimates along as reasonably as possible and yet allow all members to have the best possible scope of discussion and questioning.
Mr. Swart: Mr. Chairman, I want to have a few words to say on the supplementary estimates of the Ministry of the Attorney General as they relate to legal aid and legal aid clinics. I am going to touch just briefly on three items.
The legal aid clinic in the Welland area was established some two years ago, if my memory serves me correctly, and legal aid, as such, has been in force for many years. I want to pay tribute here to the improvement it has been made in the area of the Niagara Peninsula with regard to equality under the law. It is certainly far better than it was previously.
My colleague the member for Riverdale (Mr. Renwick) expressed his concern and that of this caucus the other day that it does not as yet go far enough to provide the equality and fairness that should exist in our legal system. We are concerned that there may be some retrenchment, as there has been in the health system in many areas, and in fact in the average income in this province, because of actions of this government.
We want to make it perfectly clear that we will oppose, as strongly as we can, any attempt to cut back on legal aid and the legal aid clinics, which do such an excellent job for so many people. That is the first point I wanted to touch on.
Second, and I hope the minister will comment on this when he rises, in recent times there apparently has been some attempt by the Law Society of Upper Canada to rather limit the operation of community legal workers. They are being told by the lawyers in charge, upon the insistence of the law society, that they should not be writing letters to various people, particularly other lawyers and other community workers, under their own signature, but that it should all go through the lawyers. It is impeding the operation of the legal aid clinics and is causing some dissatisfaction among the workers, who often have far more knowledge of the situation than the lawyer who may head up the clinic and has not had any part in the discussions.
I am hoping the minister will take a look at this and perhaps send out instructions to those in charge of the legal aid clinics that this should not take place. It is my understanding the ministry has not yet taken a stand on this. This is all being done by the law society directly through the lawyers in the legal aid clinics, and it is having an adverse effect on the service that can be given. I will not elaborate on that point any further. I think I have made the point clear and the minister will want to comment on it.
The third area I want to mention is the general umbrella of legal aid that has been set up. For instance, it is possible for certain citizen groups and certain organizations to get funding under legal aid. The Preservation of Agricultural Land Society was able to do so in the Niagara Peninsula. This funding is very restrictive. I understand it has been given out in only a few instances.
The board may have decided that, because the government of Ontario was not representing its stated policy at the hearings with regard to the land in the Niagara Peninsula, it should fund the group that was representing it. In any event, PALS got a minimum amount of funding, about one quarter of the total cost they had in this. It was appreciated by them, and I think it was a good move on the part of the government.
I believe organizations like the Canadian Environmental Law Association also get substantial funding under the general umbrella of legal aid. The suggestion I want to make to the minister here today is that this should be broadened further still. It should include some assistance to citizen groups fighting utility and rate hearings, whether before the Ontario Energy Board or the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, as is the case for Bell Canada.
I am sure the minister must be aware of the tremendous imbalance at these hearings. For instance, at the hearing that took place to set the rates for Consumers' Gas System there were some 20 witnesses and several lawyers there representing them all through the hearings. There was not one lawyer or witness representing the residential consumers. It is impossible to get a totally fair decision when there is that kind of imbalance.
I recognize that the Ontario Energy Board has its own lawyer there and cross-examines the witnesses for the gas company; but when there is nobody there specifically representing the consumer, it is certain they are at a disadvantage and are not going to get a fair shake.
It seems to me this is an area where this government is refusing to appoint a public advocate, as they have now in many states in the United States. It refuses to adequately represent the consumers. The terms of reference on legal aid should be broadened so they can represent the consumers at these hearings.
In the case of Northern and Central Gas, there were eight witnesses for the gas company before the Ontario Energy Board. Again, there was not a single representative there speaking for the residential consumers served by that company in northern Ontario.
Tremendous increases were given and there were substantial increases in the profits of the utility companies last year. That was the only group, apart from the banks, that substantially increased its profits in this nation. They are going up 25 per cent on average. With the new ruling, their profits this year will go up at least another 25 per cent and perhaps another 50 per cent. The consumers of this province are going to pay for that.
The same holds true for the Bell Canada hearings. I have correspondence here, which I will not take time to read, from the Minister of Transportation and Communications (Mr. Snow) in reply to a letter I sent to him last fall. I said that in view of the fact Bell Canada had been awarded approximately an additional $440 million, he should appeal this to the federal cabinet or use the other appeals open to him.
He wrote back to me at that time saying they were looking into it and would take appropriate action if it was warranted. Then in January of this year we found out that Bell Canada's profits had increased by something like 105 per cent; 25 per cent higher than they had ever been before.
I wrote to him again asking him to launch an appeal against the proposed eight per cent increase here in Toronto and to ask for a Bell Canada payment holiday for consumers for at least one month to use up some of that excess profit. He wrote back a snarky letter in which he said it is always easy to attack profits and that sort of thing. He had no intention of making any appeal.
I give those examples to point out the need for an extension of the legal aid process at this time to assist those citizens' groups which may want to appear, and which should appear, before the hearings of the Ontario Energy Board and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. Perhaps we should go a bit further than that on many environmental matters as well. I hope the Solicitor General (Mr. G. W. Taylor) will answer this when he gets up to respond.
With the economic situation in this province now, with many people being hurt badly by high costs because their incomes have been reduced, any government should ensure that exorbitant charges are not levied against the citizens of this province for such necessities as gas for home heating, telephone and hydro, all essential to any standard of living. As we all know, those with low incomes are paying a higher percentage of their income for costs such as home heating.
I want to leave the thought with the minister that there is a real need for an extension into that area and I hope, although I do not have very much hope, he might reply that the government will consider taking further action in that matter.
Mr. McGuigan: Mr. Chairman, the member for Welland-Thorold has a problem of not having witnesses on hand to proceed with a case. My problem in Kent county is we do not have a judge. I would like to ask the acting Attorney General, since the application has come forward from Kent county for a second judge and as legislation has been passed here, can he tell us when the order in council will be passed, if it has not already been passed, approving a second judge?
I point out by way of information that I think on average there are about 55,000 to 58,000 citizens per judge and in Kent county we have 110,000 per judge. I was informed by an officer of the court yesterday that the judge was setting trial dates for December. Our problem is we have a hard time using funds for the purpose under discussion here today because of our lack of a proper number of judges.
Mr. Stokes: I have two very short comments I want to make, Mr. Chairman. I have been a member of an area legal aid committee since 1971 and have had an opportunity to get an insight into the way the whole system works. From my vantage point I would like to say that generally speaking it works extremely well, but there are two particular aspects I think I have a responsibility to bring to the minister's attention.
The first one is the way people who appear in court are represented where their best interests are protected by duty counsel. It is the responsibility of the director of legal aid to have a directory where courts are attended by duty counsel so that the best interests of the accused, some of them having little or no knowledge of the law, are protected and they are advised as to the proper course of action having regard to the nature and the severity of the charges being laid.
It is my perception, on the basis of having listened to appeals from the decisions of the director of legal aid for the district of Thunder Bay, that quite often it has cost the system, and therefore the taxpayers in Ontario, a good deal of money that probably would not have had to be spent at all if the duty counsel had given the proper advice to the accused at the time of the first appearance.
That is a pretty broad and general statement and generalizing in an area as complex and as sensitive as this is often dangerous. But it is my perception that if you could undertake to have guidelines laid down by the Law Society of Upper Canada, the director of legal aid here in Toronto, Mr. Lawson, or some other responsible person or group, that will have general application for most instances that occur when the services of duty counsel are required, the system of justice in this province would be a lot better.
I think it would make the job of the directors of legal aid across the province and the area committees a lot simpler if the proper action had been taken in the first place where the first line is with duty counsel. I have seen numerous instances where, because the accused did not get the proper advice on that initial appearance, it has cost the taxpayers in this province large sums of money to protect their interests after the fact rather than before it escalated into a problem of fairly major proportions.
A good many of the lawyers who put their names on the list for duty counsel and are called are relatively young lawyers, some of them with very little experience in handling cases. I would like to see a system of guidelines developed and put in place for use universally across the province when there is a summary conviction that is not going to involve a sentence where some time might be spent in jail.
I do not presume to speak for other areas, but I happen to know our system in the Thunder Bay district works reasonably well. Having talked to other people who are more knowledgeable about the system generally across the province, ours stands up extremely well. We have a dedicated director. I think we have a good area committee. But it is my perception the interests of justice across Ontario would be much better served if we had that system of guidelines for the use of duty counsel.
There is another area I would like to touch on briefly. For the last four or five years in northwestern Ontario, particularly in places like Thunder Bay and Kenora, with branch operations in Geraldton and Marathon, we have had clinics to serve the needs of our first citizens. That works extremely well, particularly with the little satellite operations in the more isolated and remote communities such as Marathon, Nipigon and Geraldton.
I am not very familiar with the level of costing or the amount of funds dedicated to those operations, but I have been advised by people who operate those clinics that their future is in some doubt. I am not sure whether it is because of a cutback or a retrenchment in that area or whether it is because there are not sufficient additional sums of money made available to take care of inflation, increased costs or an increased work load. I know that is of concern to some very dedicated people who are operating these clinics on behalf of our first citizens.
I do not wish to be overly dramatic or melodramatic about the problem in our courts and the number of our first citizens who for a variety of reasons find themselves before the courts and who spend a good deal of time incarcerated for a variety of relatively minor offences, a good many of them related to the use of alcohol. I can only say an inordinately large number of our first citizens find themselves before the courts for a variety of reasons in proportion to their percentage of the overall population.
I think it is absolutely critical and essential that in funding the legal aid plan, as you are asking during these supplementary estimates, a sufficient amount of money be dedicated to making sure the best interests of our first citizens are protected and looked after. I can appreciate that, given the relative numbers of our first citizens, one would think that in proportionate terms they are very well looked after. In terms of the work load and the number of appearances I can assure you they are not well looked after.
It is an excellent program. I think this minister would be doing everybody in Ontario a favour by ensuring that we maintain the level of service with regard to legal aid and these clinics and the wonderful work they do on behalf of the first citizens in Ontario. I think this is one way in which you can perpetuate a good program, build upon it, and make sure that it serves the need for which it was originally intended.
The Deputy Chairman: Does the acting Attorney General want to respond to the statement that has been made?
Hon. G. W. Taylor: We have formulated two or three different methods, Mr. Chairman. It started off that some of the ministers were saving their responses until the end. However, yesterday, when I started on behalf of the Attorney General (Mr. McMurtry) as the acting Attorney General, I started responding to each individual as the member gave his comments.
I believe there are a couple of members waiting who would like responses to their information at this time. I might give those, then I can carry on with the question and answer process and wait for the member. If he allows me that, I will answer the questions now.
Yesterday, the member for Riverdale (Mr. Renwick) asked certain questions about the process. If I can keep them in order, he was concerned about the very basic future of the legal aid plan with regard to what he considered to be statistics that were showing up. He did not want to think that restraint was showing up in another manner in the program by the reduction of the number of certificates. I would also hope that is not taking place.
I can confirm for the member that we do, through the Law Society of Upper Canada and through the legal aid plan, keep very accurate groupings of statistics. I think history has shown that where those statistics bear out that certain activities or directions should be taken by the legal aid plan to improve upon it, those actions have been taken to make those improvements in the plan.
It was a wise decision made by the initiators of the legal aid plan that so many areas were statistically accumulated right from the outset and have been accumulated throughout the period of time so the legal aid plan can be improved upon. As the member for Riverdale knows, there have been ongoing reviews by the law society and by independent groups of the legal aid plan. I think all of them have resulted in an improvement in the plan. I hope to confirm that there is no restraint in the certificates. As acting Attorney General, I will bring it to the attention of the Attorney General. I do not believe his actions are creating a restraint program in the use of eligibility certificates. I believe, as he suggested, there will be improvements in the method of eligibility for legal aid certificates.
In regard to the designation of clinic funding, the present method of funding of clinics, the payment and the timing is under review. I am given to understand that the 1982-83 clinic funding will be made available in the next couple of weeks. A decision will be made as to the designation for that funding.
As I mentioned yesterday, there was an approximate clinic funding budget made over the 1980-81 period for the fiscal year 1981-82. There was projected to be an 18 per cent increase in the amount of funding for clinics.
As to the matter of the federal contributions, you have heard it many times in this House by ministers, including myself more recently, that naturally we would like further funding from the federal government because some of the areas that the legal aid plan does assist happen to fall within its jurisdiction.
For 1980-81, the federal funding was $8.5 million. For the 1981-82 estimate, it is believed it will be $9.3 million, and that is a 9.4 per cent increase. The officials of the ministry have been discussing with their counterparts at the federal level an increase in this amount. Those discussions are presently ongoing so that a further cost-sharing can be achieved through the legal aid plan so that the province will receive further money from the federal propositions.
On the Burnaby project that the member for Riverdale discussed, as you will recall at the outset of the legal aid plan -- it goes back to my early career as a lawyer -- the different public defender systems throughout the jurisdictions of the world were looked at and were not adopted. They were discounted as methods of supplying legal assistance to the citizens of the province.
The plan has instituted a solicitor and client relationship with a certificate so that the solicitor and client relationship was independent of the government, and really independent of even an appearance of influence, so you had a solicitor and client relationship and only the funding came in. That was one of the highlights of our system and indeed was touted as being one of the highlights of the legal aid system.
The present Linden-Ewart report, entitled Background Paper on the Implications of the Salaried Defender Concept for the Delivery of Criminal Legal Aid Services in Ontario, has been looked at. It has not been thoroughly reviewed to the point of saying, "No, it will not be done," but the Attorney General assures me it is under review and the concept of a public defender system has not been ruled out entirely. There may be some place for it in the future, although when we look at our present plan -- you have the clinics, you have the solicitor and client relationship in the present system -- it appears a great many people have been serviced and are serviced by the process, particularly when you consider that the number of clinics are increasing and the number of salaried individuals with a background in law are increasing in those clinics.
You commented upon the appointment of two senior members to the ministry clinic funding committee. These appointments are not new in terms of senior representation, but it is indicated to me that the Attorney General is a strong supporter of clinic funding. He is personally satisfied with these two appointments and that they will strengthen the clinic movement in Ontario.
Another point you made was on the financial eligibility criteria. You asked specifically about the individuals. I do not have information as to the exact individuals. I thought that was the part you wanted in the question, the actual people who made up that committee. I am informed it is made up of representatives of the Ministry of Community and Social Services, the Ministry of the Attorney General and the law society, including Professor Ellis.
We understand the items are near resolution on financial eligibility criteria. If your question was to elicit the names of the individuals on that committee reviewing the material, I will obtain them for you, so that you may know the individuals. That information is not in the material that was provided to me today.
The tariff committee of the law society has not yet reported its recommendations for a tariff increase, and the people in the ministry and the Attorney General are awaiting the submission. Naturally, we will review it at that time. I think your comments are well taken as to the 25 per cent contribution made, or that was given the appearance of being made, by the profession. It was labelled by you, I think, as a charitable situation, that these people who are receiving legal aid certificates should not in any way or form be considered to be receiving charity in some respect from the legal profession who participate in the program.
I think those remarks are well taken. One might look at the tariff and suggest there should be a tariff and that should be it. The legal profession wanted to disguise this as being their donation to society. I do not find the words "some form of charity" acceptable either. As the member mentioned, I think those should be reviewed and there should be a tariff given to a duty counsel or a member of the profession for conducting those services under a legal aid certificate.
I believe those were all the questions the member for Riverdale posed to me yesterday. I hope I have answered them to some degree. Although I know this is a matter for legal aid, some of the questions were of a larger nature. I am sure the Attorney General will address those as to the direction they will take when he begins his estimates on his return later this year.
Mr. Renwick: Mr. Chairman, perhaps the acting Attorney General would let me make one minor comment. I just want to say I appreciated the responses he made. As far as this supplementary estimate is concerned, they covered the questions I raised. They are broader than can be followed in any depth at this time, but they do express the concerns I have which can be reflected when we have a more ample opportunity during the estimates of the Attorney General.
Hon. G. W. Taylor: I thank the member for those comments. I will go now to the member for Kent-Elgin (Mr. McGuigan), who has been inquiring about the second county court judge appointment. I would have to refer that matter to the Attorney General. I have no knowledge of the appointment, when it might be, the statistical background of arriving at that second appointment or when it might be before the executive council for consideration.
As to the comments by the member for Lake Nipigon (Mr. Stokes), as I mentioned earlier in regard to comments made by the member for Riverdale, there is an increase in funding coming for legal aid clinics in this session.
When the law society administers those funds to the clinics, I would hope the clinics in the northern region will receive consideration and there will be no reduction in funding. I will bring that to the attention of the Attorney General so he can transmit the information to the law society.
With regard to guidelines, the only present guidelines for duty counsel are those set out in the Legal Aid Act and regulations. They are of a broad nature, stating when a person can and cannot act as a duty counsel and the services that can be performed as duty counsel.
The member for Lake Nipigon might dwell on whether the complications he is referring to are when the person is acting as duty counsel, whether the complications have been created by the duty counsel giving advice not necessarily suited to the situation, and whether it caused a later complication by having to go for an appeal to receive a legal aid certificate or specific help under the legal aid system.
In that situation it is very difficult to define guidelines for those duty counsel. They must assess the situation with their general, broad knowledge of law and not on their knowledge of when they can and cannot act as a duty counsel. I will bring that to the attention of the Attorney General, as you have. I am sure he will be reading the transcript on this, as will his staff, to check out the activity of the duty counsel in that area.
You have brought to our attention that sometimes they are inexperienced. I think the statistics set out in the annual legal aid report show the number of individuals assisting in the legal aid scheme. If you were to look at years of experience in the 1981 annual report, 25 per cent of the lawyers are in years one to three of experience in the practice of law. It increases to 51 per cent for four to 12 years of experience, and then 22 per cent have more than 12 years of experience. The bulk of lawyers have four to 12 years of experience. I do not know whether that applies to the lawyers practising in the area you have indicated, but I hope it would.
They have the other feature I mentioned. Under the legal aid program they now have the mentor service where a senior counsel can give advice to a junior lawyer or to someone with less experience. I hope that program would be taken advantage of by the counsels in your area so they can give the best advice and the best assistance to the people they are serving. I hope those few comments will assist in answering some of your questions.
I go now to the member for Welland-Thorold (Mr. Swart), who I see is not here. He mentioned reduction of funding for clinics under the legal aid scheme. There is no reduction of funding. As I have repeated to three or four members, there is going to be an increase this year in the funding of legal aid clinics.
He also asked questions about the type of service and whether it should be for certain programs. I guess he was describing ones where he thought there should be funds available for somebody to contest applications before the Ontario Energy Board or other boards and tribunals.
Initially, when the legal aid plan was created, I think there was a refusal to fund test cases in the legislation that was passed. It was to be a solicitor-client relationship. If one had a test case, the legal aid scheme would not fund that. That philosophy has been changed, and now there is a committee for test cases. It is a subcommittee of the legal aid program. If one has a test case for which one desires funding, the group, individual, institution or whatever the label might be, can have a class action or a test case. There is a special committee one can appeal to for funding at this time.
The member also mentioned the Canadian Environmental Law Association. I look at the list of partially funded groups called independent, community-based legal clinics that receive some funding. He referred to the Canadian Environmental Law Association as one that might receive funding. It appears from the 1981 annual report that this group, the Canadian Environmental Law Association, if it is the same one, does receive some funding under the legal aid program, as do many others.
I will give some indication of them: Advocacy Resource Centre for the Handicapped, Industrial Accident Victims Group of Ontario, Injured Workers' Consultants, Keewaytinok Native Legal Services, Centre for Spanish-Speaking Peoples, Landlords' Self-Help Centre and Metro Tenants' Legal Services. There are others: Black Resources and Information Centre, Greek Community Social Services and Latin American Community Centre.
There is a broad group of legal aid clinics that are funded which have what one might describe as special interests, as well as the many groups offering services in the general nature of community legal aid services. The plan does cover many of those features that the member for Welland-Thorold commented on.
The only other one he mentioned was that the Attorney General might write a letter to the Law Society of Upper Canada instructing it how to administer the plan in regard to lawyers who seem to be having some conflict with other staff at these community resource centres.
I did not quite understand his problem in that regard. Perhaps if he would more fully set out the difficulty he alleged was taking place with lawyers writing or not writing letters to other members, possibly I could understand the problem on those community resource centres. If he could explain that more fully, I would be pleased to take it up with the Attorney General.
I believe that brings us down to answering most, if not all, questions of the members who have presented themselves here except the member for Ottawa East (Mr. Roy), who wants to make some comment.
The Deputy Chairman: He does.
Mr. Roy: Mr. Chairman, when we are discussing legal aid, I would not want to let an opportunity go by to offer a few comments on what I consider a very important topic.
I see my dear friend and colleague the Minister of Revenue (Mr. Ashe) is sitting there smiling, hoping that somehow the comments will be reduced so that we can get on to his bill and get that processed this afternoon. I want to say to him, he should not tax our patience after putting up with his enlightened answers in question period. He will be fortunate if he gets out of here by 10:30 this evening with his bill. In fact, he deserves even less than that. We should keep him here the rest of the week, after what he --
The Deputy Chairman: Just be reminded by the chair that the Attorney General's estimates are on the floor --
Mr. Roy: That is right.
The Deputy Chairman: -- and, in fact, they have to do with legal aid exclusively.
Mr. Roy: Do not curtail my --
The Deputy Chairman: I will curtail you only if you are not on topic. The Chairman made that clear at the beginning.
Mr. Roy: Mr. Chairman, please do not hamper my enthusiasm. I want to speak on this question of legal aid, first of all, to congratulate the Solicitor General. I have not had an opportunity to congratulate him publicly on his appointment and tell him that we wish him the very best in the position of Solicitor General.
Fortunately for him, he will not have many opportunities to come before the House to answer questions dealing with the legal aid plan. I suppose some would say that, fortunately for him, he will have to deal with matters that may be more difficult to deal with than the legal aid plan, when he has to answer on the police of Ontario and so on.
Nevertheless, we do wish him well for the future, and I appreciate some comments he made here this afternoon in response to some of my colleagues' questions.
I want to take this opportunity to make a few comments and pay tribute to many people who do not receive much credit for the operation of Ontario's legal aid plan. Through comments made by members of this assembly and judges at different time, the headlines we often read about legal aid are that the plan is being ripped off at times, that the plan is just an open door or a cash register for the legal profession of Ontario and so on.
I want to take this opportunity to correct some of these distortions, which I consider distortions of the --
Mr. Stokes: Why is your colleague squirming?
Mr. Nixon: He can't wait to get up and speak, that's why.
Mr. Roy: I hope he does because, with all due respect to one of my colleagues who shall remain nameless for the record at this time, he has made some slight contribution to what I consider distortions of the program and the contribution that lawyers make to the plan.
Mr. Chairman, as you know, the plan operates from the top with benchers from the Law Society of Upper Canada who are very much involved and who give up much of their free time. People from the law society give many hours of their time, without pay, to see that the system operates. From there, we proceed to all those legal aid committees. The member for Lake Nipigon talked about that. He serves on some of the committees. There may be other people, not only members of the legal profession but also other citizens right across Ontario, who put in many hours serving --
Mr. Stokes: It cost me money to serve on it.
Mr. Roy: Probably it does, because in areas like the member's one has to travel to attend meetings. I think many of these people who make a contribution without financial benefit to many of these local legal aid committees deserve the tribute and gratitude of the people of Ontario. Very often, their contribution is not underlined and appreciated here in Ontario.
I move from those members who serve and who deserve our gratitude to citizens across Ontario who serve again in a fashion without financial benefit and who help out in those local legal aid clinics. Many of the people who are serving in those clinics are members of the community who make a sizeable contribution. What happens to legal aid happens in many other programs: a lot of people make it work because these people give a lot of time and effort and make a valuable contribution to the system and do not get the credit they deserve.
I want to take this opportunity to say to you that I have seen the legal aid plan evolve. I started practising in 1966, at the time the plan started. I have seen the plan evolve since that time. I have heard the different criticisms, and some have certainly been valid. There were times when there were lawyers and other people who abused the plan.
We used to have long discussions about whether the plan should continue to help fund the defence of repeat offenders. For instance, how often should an individual who is charged with a criminal offence get a certificate? Should he get two certificates a year? What if he committed five, six, seven or 10 offences a year? Should he get unlimited certificates in a year? The plan decided that for reasons of justice, if one was entitled to due process and to proper representation, there should not be any curtailment or restriction on the number of certificates for any specific individual per year. That was the decision.
I am convinced there are abuses, but to make the process work you have to suffer some abuses. Some people say there are abuses of the unemployment insurance plan, of welfare and so on. But to ensure the plan is sufficiently flexible, so that you do not exclude people who are entitled to or who merit a proper defence, you have to leave some flexibility in it.
It is just like the lawyers operating within the plan. It brings me to some of the criticisms that have been levelled by some of my colleagues here and by some members of the judiciary, about some lawyers who apparently take on cases, who are being paid on a per diem basis and then extend the case.
One case comes to mind, and you may recall this situation, Mr. Chairman. We read about it back in December 1981, where county court judge Ian Cartwright talked about some lawyers who abused the plan in one case. Judge Cartwright labelled this -- and I am trying to quote the judge correctly as to what he was talking about when he said these lawyers were just carrying on this trial to accumulate more per diems --
Mr. Nixon: He called it meter spinning.
Mr. Roy: That's right. My colleague the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk would have a keen memory for that sort of comment. That is what the judge was talking about. He called it meter spinning.
I notice that subsequent to the comments of this judge there has been some investigation. Maybe the minister can comment on whether there is a situation whereby a limited number of lawyers are apparently using the system, not so much to give a proper defence to the individual they are representing but to do what my colleague has said and the judge in the case said, meter spinning; since they are being paid on a per diem basis, they just extend the case.
The judge in the case talked about the fact that the interrogation had not been properly prepared, and he went on to say that there was sheer laziness on the part of these lawyers in the preparation of their case. Subsequent to the judge's comment, these lawyers made some complaint to the Law Society of Upper Canada and there were some comments made.
I would like to get a comment from the minister on whether this is a problem because, if it is, we must not let a limited or restricted number of lawyers undermine the legal aid plan in Ontario.
I notice that some time ago another judge, Mr. Justice John O'Driscoll, commented about a case. A newspaper report said:
"Toronto lawyer Jack Pinkofsky, accused of ripping off the province's legal aid plan by a Supreme Court justice, may be docked for wasting the court's time when he submits his account to the Ontario legal aid plan.
"Mr. Justice John O'Driscoll yesterday accused Pinkofsky and another defence lawyer, Len Miller, of needlessly delaying a trial of three men charged in wounding a variety store owner during an attempted robbery.
"'The whole system would collapse if more than a few counsel acted this way,' O'Driscoll said after sentencing the three convicted men to long penitentiary terms. They were convicted after a trial that took more than 41 days."
I had occasion to discuss this case with Mr. Justice O'Driscoll earlier this year. He talked about a limited number of lawyers and he pointed his finger mostly at lawyers practising here in Metro Toronto who apparently are using questionable methods in defending clients.
The prime interest of such lawyers seems to be to extend a trial as long as possible, raising every conceivable issue. And where you have multiple accused, you can do it. Each counsel takes advantage of the situation to ask questions that have been asked by other counsel. There are endless motions made whereby counsel can extend the process. Finally, they try to exasperate the presiding judge in such a way that he will make some error in law either by comment or by making a particular ruling on a case. Then they can take the matter to the Court of Appeal and get their retainer or the legal aid certificate extended.
I would like to know from the minister whether there have been cases where the legal aid plan has judged that some of these counsels have abused their certificates, where it has been clear that their prime motivation was getting more in per diems than the case warranted. When I see cases taking this length of time, I have to think there was an abuse.
I note in Ontario's News Update for March 1981 that John Bowlby, treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada, reported to the annual meeting that 87.5 per cent of lawyers dealing with the plan receive $10,000 per year or less. That is an indication that a high percentage of lawyers who deal with the plan are not ripping it off. I think that should be put on the record.
The treasurer also stated at that time that 78 per cent of lawyers in the Ontario plan have been practising at least four years. This should allay the concern of those who say that only junior members of the bar are willing to do the job. I refer to my colleague the member for Lake Nipigon. I think his concern is valid, that in spite of statistics, the plan is certainly not geared to attracting people who have lengthy experience at the bar.
Mr. Stokes: The figure should be 75 per cent.
Mr. Roy: Yes. And the tariff was $40, $50 or $60, depending on your experience, I believe. The minister may correct me, but I think the most the legal aid plans pays is $60 an hour, no matter how senior or how experienced the counsel is. As the Chairman knows, from his lengthy experience at the bar, $60 an hour is not something that will attract very many heavyweights. I am told the going rate for many senior counsel is more in the range of $120 to $150 an hour.
Mr. Nixon: God help us then.
Mr. Chairman: Order.
Mr. Roy: My colleague the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk should be brought to order. We know his frustrations with the legal profession, and I will not get into it with him, but certain facts have to be raised even if they are annoying to some members of the assembly.
I say to the minister, if $60 an hour is the top rate and then you reduce that by 25 per cent or $20 an hour, the result is that the senior, most experienced counsel are making about $40 an hour.
I do not know whether any of the members here know the paperwork involved in the processing of forms for a legal aid case. That alone could keep a secretary going for some time. I ask the minister if he can send a message back so that endless forms and reports do not have to be filled out. Whether you represent someone and give him advice for $10 or represent him on a murder case and bill $1,500 or whatever, the flat rate for representation in a major criminal offence, there are endless forms that have to be filled out.
Lawyers who work under the plan will be fortunate if they get paid within six months. I understand this supplementary estimate is to speed up the payments of accounts that have been submitted, but this whole system is not conducive to attracting senior members of the bar to participate in the plan.
I would hazard a guess that the plan would not be able to respond to the need were we not facing a situation where the economics of Ontario have dictated that there are too many lawyers. There is an excess of lawyers who have nothing to do. A lot of young lawyers are coming into the system and they are doing a lot of legal aid work.
Mr. Stokes: They are doing a lot of ambulance chasing.
Mr. Roy: Sure they are. When there are too many lawyers in the profession, especially in the major urban centres, they are hustling. Were it not for the fact that there is an excess of lawyers, you would not have sufficient lawyers to respond to the needs of the plan. In that sense I suppose it is fortunate that there are too many lawyers, but it leads to abuses.
Mr. Nixon: There should be a lot more of them here in the Legislature. That would ease it.
Mr. Roy: I say to my colleague, we are very cautious about criticizing the farm community. The nice thing about the legal profession is that its members have broad shoulders; they can defend themselves and they can take the abuse whether it is warranted or not.
I ask my colleagues to compare different professionals. The other day I was reading a report from 1979 which stated that at that time there were 49 lawyers in Ontario who were paid more than $40,000 from the Ontario legal aid plan. Another 54 collected between $30,000 and $40,000, and 118 were paid between $20,000 and $30,000. That means lesser fees were received by more than 4,000 of the 4,805 lawyers who received fees under the plan.
Compare that, I say to my colleague, with how many doctors received $40,000 or more under the Ontario health insurance plan. Just make a quick comparison of that --
Mr. Nixon: These lawyers don't do anything else but legal aid?
Mr. Roy: That's right. Some of them do. I can assure you that if lawyers --
Mr. Nixon: They must be pretty junior.
Mr. Roy: There are many junior lawyers in Ontario. Do you realize that --
Mr. Nixon: The older ones won't step aside.
Mr. Roy: Mr. Chairman, can you control him? My statements today are directed not so much to the government as to some of my colleagues in my own party who are prejudiced against a particular profession.
Just to correct the record, I know the Attorney General's job in times of constraint is an impossible one, but in criticizing some of the members of the profession who abuse the plan we should make sure it is not undermined. We lose sight of the fact that a lot of people make a substantial contribution to the plan. Many senior lawyers do so out of a sense of duty and certainly not out of a sense of economic profit when they represent people further to a legal aid certificate.
My final comment is in relation to some of the comments made by my colleague the member for Riverdale about the mixture of having people using the public defender system as compared to the system here in Ontario.
I have no doubt in supporting some of my colleagues here who have said that the plan we have here in Ontario is possibly the best system around. We will have to make sure when there are abuses that they are corrected if we want to keep a system such as this, but I think it requires a certain amount of flexibility. There are areas where public defenders on a full-time basis could be more effective than people working just on the basis of a certificate or a fee for service.
I give the example of people working as duty counsel in certain courts. Some of these people possibly are seeing a high volume of people at one time. They may be seeing 30, 40 or 50 accused a day. With experience, they could be making decisions that would save the plan large amounts of money at the earliest opportunity.
We should not be paranoid about whether it is through one system or the other. I think the best system is one giving a certain amount of flexibility to an individual, let's say, who has a certificate, to be able to say, "I have a choice." Because the weakness of the public defender system is just like the weakness of many other government agencies in that it just becomes another number. The public defender is overworked, and he is just trying to get rid of a case; so the defendant does not get the attention he deserves --
Mr. Nixon: Just like the crown attorneys.
Mr. Roy: Some people will see a weakness in the process where the public defender and the crown attorney are determining the future of individuals and both these people are paid on a full-time basis by the government --
Mr. Nixon: Yes, but the judge is above all that.
Mr. Roy: My colleague wants to intervene, and I trust the record will not show his interventions to be as nasty as they appear to be, at least on the floor of the Legislature.
Mr. Nixon: No, I am a friendly witness. I agree with what you are saying about public defenders.
Mr. Roy: What I am trying to say basically to the minister is that we need a system with a certain amount of flexibility. It is important to all of us to recognize that flexibility is required.
I hope some of my colleagues here, who tend to look at the legal aid plan as just a bonanza for the legal profession, will understand the useful public contribution that many people make within that plan.
For instance, although this has not been pointed out, there are substantial funds -- I do not know how many millions of dollars -- which come out of the interest on trust accounts. I do not know what that amounts to per year. Perhaps the minister can tell us. This is a further contribution made by that profession. I think all of these contributions --
Mr. Nixon: Do you mean the lawyers should get interest from trust accounts?
Mr. Roy: No, I never said that. Mr. Chairman, I trust someone will curtail the distortions being made by the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk!
Mr. Chairman: Order. I am hesitant to do so because, being painted with a similar brush as to the profession you have been speaking about, I may not be in an unbiased position. However, I do want to remind the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk that we appreciate his attendance very much and we are sorry the weather is so cold outside, because normally he would be away farming about this time of the season.
Mr. Stokes: You really know how to hurt a guy.
Mr. Havrot: There's lots of fertilization for farming in here too.
Mr. Nixon: I am waiting for the tulips to sprout.
Mr. Roy: Mr. Chairman, I should have said something like that because I saw him this morning. He was on the steps of the Legislature and he kept wetting his index finger and sticking it up in the air. I thought maybe he had ideas of going somewhere other than this place.
In concluding, I want to say to the minister that we appreciate his involvement in this and we appreciate his responses to some of the queries made by my colleagues.
Hon. G. W. Taylor: I welcome the comments of the member for Ottawa East because often plans such as this receive more criticism than is warranted. Many good works are carried out by those donating time and, of course, our legal aid committees and the Law Society of Upper Canada do donate enormous amounts of time.
Indeed, when I practised law one of my partners was Charlie Seagram, who was a bencher of the law society. Being a very particular individual, much of the time he would calculate his time as a lawyer. The number of days he contributed to the Law Society of Upper Canada accumulated to about 36 working days each year. Part of that was in regard to the legal aid plan. He used to mention that meant his time was lost to the firm in that regard. I bring that as a personal experience.
Besides those individuals there are many who are not lawyers. Lay people contribute considerable amounts of time to legal aid committees as well. When I hear criticism, I think the criticism stands out more than some of the good work. I am sure when the lawyers are working for legal aid certificates they work for the amounts of the certificates and know full well at the outset they will be working for those amounts. They do not consider, as has been remarked, that there is any charity involved in it. They know the figures.
The member for Ottawa East asked about the dollar figures. I have a 1979 legal aid tariff which I believe was the last time it was revised. The sum is $48 an hour and if one has roughly 10 years' experience, it can go up to a maximum of $60 an hour. I believe the rough and ready rate is about $48 an hour.
Mr. Haggerty: If one has his QC, does it go up to $75 or $80?
Hon. G. W. Taylor: No, under the tariff $60 is the maximum. Since the inception of the plan in 1968, there have been two tariff revisions, one in 1973, when it went up 25 per cent, and one in 1979. Over a period of time, the tariff increase for payment of accounts and moneys to lawyers has not gone up a considerable amount compared to many other areas.
When one talks about public defenders, the overall plan itself has been reviewed on numerous occasions. It originally started with only duty counsel and fee for service solicitor-client relationships with certificates, but the watchful eyes of the Legislature, the law society and other people have expanded upon that program. We now have the clinics, a greater number of duty counsel and some salaried people working for these clinics.
As I mentioned earlier in my comments, the original idea that was touted after studying many other plans throughout the world was that the solicitor-client fee for service was considered far better than any of the other plans that had restricted themselves solely to a public defender system. I think we are achieving the best of all worlds so individuals before our courts receive assistance in the form of counsel.
The member for Ottawa East mentioned the number of lawyers in the plan. He used some figures and I used some from the 1981 annual report, which is before him. The greatest bulk of lawyers, 84 per cent of the 5,165 lawyers who billed the plan during the last fiscal year for their services, were paid less than $10,000 from the legal aid plan.
When one looks at the other statistical features which are on page 9 of the 1981 annual report, there are really very few lawyers receiving any substantial sums at all from the plan. These are very small in comparison to the number of lawyers participating. When 84 per cent receive under $10,000, it shows those lawyers are interested in making the plan work. They are interested in working for those sums and assisting people.
When one looks at the total amount of activity over the plan, there were 67,204 activities before duty counsel in 1968. When you get up to 1981, there were 221,669 activities before duty counsel. There has been a remarkable increase in the activity of the plan; the plan has serviced that many more individuals. The numbers of applications and certificates granted for individuals have also increased enormously.
I think the plan, overall, has served the public well. I think the criticism by the bench -- I recognize the bench cannot often speak for itself as we can in this forum and make comment on it -- and some criticism by others, allows us to look at the plan and be a little more detailed in correcting that plan. I think if there are any abuses they are minimal.
I recall at one time there was some discussion about the number of lawyers taking too many cases. There is now a self-imposed checkoff method. If a lawyer has too many certificates, the plan will not allow that lawyer to increase his caseload. So there is a self-imposed protective system in the plan. I think the law society, in administering the plan, is always looking for methods of improving the process for the benefit of the public which it is serving.
I think that touches all the comments the member for Ottawa East made, as well as those his colleague the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk will traditionally make. I will now sit down and enjoy his comments. I think I have three assistants in the House who may wish to hear those comments.
Mr. Chairman: The minister has indicated the member would be speaking next. I do not know if the chair will be in a position to recognize that.
Mr. Nixon: Whatever Mr. Chairman wishes.
Mr. Chairman: That is right. I am sure there is someone else who would love to speak before the member.
Mr. Ruston: I can speak.
Mr. Chairman: There, I knew the member for Essex North would have a few worthwhile comments in defence of the lawyers.
Mr. Ruston: I do not know that, Mr. Chairman. What I wanted to mention concerns me. I have a letter from a constituent of mine, dated almost two years ago. He has apparently been charged with fraud. Up until two years ago, he had paid $9,000 to his solicitor and never got anywhere in court. Then he got this letter from the solicitor, which says:
"I estimate that the trial of the various counts pending against you will take approximately five to six months in court, and I estimate my fees will be between $80,000 and $90,000 to defend the various charges. However, if for some reason the trial does not go on as long as I anticipate, I can advise you my fees will be $750 a day."
He is wondering if there is some way he could dispose of his small farm and home and then get legal aid. Can the minister tell me how much legal aid would pay if that is the estimated cost of the legal fees?
Hon. G. W. Taylor: Mr. Chairman, I have no comment. I would have great difficulty to try to estimate the cost of another lawyer's services.
There is in the legal aid tariff a very specific tariff so that each stage of conduct of a trial or a piece of litigation has a specific dollar value attached to it. The solicitor carries out that stage, submits the account, and it is reviewed by the accountants who work for the Ontario legal aid plan.
It is very thorough. As the member for Ottawa East commented earlier, there is a very thorough submission of one's account to the legal aid system. When one is going on to a more lengthy trial, before one gets a certificate one also has to indicate to the body that grants the certificate the length of time and approximate expense the conduct of the piece of litigation is going to take.
In the legal aid plan there are some safeguards to control the amount of expenditures and to make sure the direction the lawyer is taking on behalf of the client is a direction that can be accounted for in dollars, as well as in the service to be provided.
As to the case of the member for Essex North, I prefer not to comment on that individual except to say that he should be able to seek -- as it is possible -- another lawyer who may offer a different standard of costs for that matter before him.
Mr. Ruston: The minister replied as best he could under the circumstances. There is a problem I find from people involved in these matters, and I am speaking now for those who are charged. In this case, it has been three years since he was charged. He has a licence to operate a business but since he has been charged with fraud he cannot operate his business because people are reluctant to attend to him for business.
In the courts, which I know we are not dealing with now, we find many cases in our own area where the judges every month or two are condemning lawyers for not going ahead with trials. They say they do not have the time and they are tied up. Sometimes when justice is delayed, justice is not carried out. As the fellow said, "Justice delayed is justice denied."
I understand this gentleman had told the crown attorney he will go himself, without a lawyer, but now the crown attorney will not go ahead with the case. He does not want to go ahead with him acting as his own lawyer. I am losing a lot of faith in our court system.
Mr. Nixon: Mr. Chairman, I want to say that I have no objection to the voting of an additional $3 million in the interest of legal aid in Ontario.
Vote 1402 agreed to.
Mr. Chairman: This completes consideration of the supplementary estimates of the Ministry of the Attorney General.
On motion by Hon. Mr. Gregory, the committee of supply reported a certain resolution.
FUEL TAX AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. Ashe moved second reading of Bill 8, An Act to amend the Fuel Tax Act, 1981.
Hon. Mr. Ashe: Mr. Speaker, just a brief statement that may answer all questions that may be raised. This bill to amend the Fuel Tax Act, 1981, will provide an effective date of February 1, 1982, for the establishment of a program of relief for small independent businessmen and farmers' co-operatives for additional tankage costs arising from the coloration of fuel.
When the legislation establishing the coloured fuel program was before the House last fall, members will recall that I indicated the government was cognizant of the fact that additional facilities would be necessary for businesses required to handle both clear and coloured fuel. I also indicated that we were unwilling to impose financial hardships on those businesses in order for them to comply with the terms of the program.
I recognize that construction of the additional tank facilities required for storage and transportation of fuel must begin now in order that the implementation date of September 1, 1982, for the coloured fuel program may be met. For that reason, I am proposing this amendment to the Fuel Tax Act, 1981, which will allow my ministry to provide assistance to those businesses qualifying for relief during construction of those facilities, rather than waiting until the end or after September 1.
Because of this assistance program, I believe no business should experience any impediment to its normal business cash flow because of the coloured fuel program.
Mr. T. P. Reid: Mr. Speaker, we support this bill. We are happy to see that while the government is causing distress on the one hand it is doing something in advance so that as the minister says it will not interrupt the cash flow at a time of tight money. One wonders about some of these programs the government has introduced. However, we cannot argue with the principle of this bill and we will vote in favour.
Mr. Breaugh: Mr. Speaker, we will support the principle of the bill. It has long been our contention that whenever the government of Ontario comes up with some bright idea that costs other people money, it ought to attempt to reimburse them. We support the principle of this very brief legislation and we agree with the government.
Mr. Nixon: Mr. Speaker, I just want to comment briefly that the concept of selling two colours of fuel has been tried before in the province without much success and was abandoned. I have a feeling that it is only the minister's suspicious mind that has led us into a situation where we now have to pass an enactment allowing him to subsidize the various fuel distributors for building identical, duplicate storage facilities so that the fuel can be Tory red at the same time as they can sell uncoloured fuel to the market, particularly in rural areas.
We had the argument on another occasion. The government majority has bulldozed this through so that we now face the imposition of coloured fuel in the province once again. The idea of an amendment, however, which will permit the Minister of Revenue to get approval for giving grants to the distributors directly affected is one we all support.
There is a concern that I raised with the minister at the time of the original debate, and personally since, that the limit he is prepared to set on the costs of the duplication of facilities is unnecessarily low. He did explain to me that the limit that is being established has to do not necessarily with the individual companies or distributors, but with the number of sites they may have. That may apply in some instances, for example, to one of the large co-operatives near my area, the Norwich farmers' co-op, which sells a good deal of the fuel for the farm community and also for other consumers.
Their costs, it is estimated, in duplicating the storage facilities, will be larger than the limit he has indicated would be established per location. I feel sure, however, that the minister, if proper evidence is presented to him that the costs are beyond the limit that would normally be established, would be in a position to review that evidence and perhaps make exceptions in individual cases, at least one of which, I believe, would deserve his concern, where the costs would be above the indicated limit.
Once again, I feel it is a mistake getting into the coloured fuel situation, particularly compared with our experience of 30 or 40 years ago, but we are going to do it. In this instance, we have to assist the distributors in duplicating their facilities. Certainly we approve of the principle of the bill and we have demonstrated that by fitting it into the ordinary business of the House with as little delay as possible.
Mr. Swart: Mr. Speaker, the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk raised a point that is well taken. There certainly has to be some question of whether it is a wise move to go to coloured fuel, because the government is putting the distributors and others to substantial cost because of its policy. We are supporting the bill too. It is questionable, though, whether the bill will, in fact, reimburse the distributors for the extra costs they will have, particularly the smaller distributors.
It is one thing to subsidize the storage tanks. These distributors tell me, and I have no doubt what they say is correct, that it is going to mean in some instances substantial additional haulage costs because of the two colours of gas they have. It will mean dividing their tank trucks, in some instances, so they can haul one coloured gas in one part and another coloured gas in the other part. There are going to be ongoing costs to these distributors that are not going to be met by the government.
The decision has been made to go to coloured gas and the bill we have before us is substantially better than nothing, so we are going to support it. But I do not want anybody to think we think this is the ideal situation, because it is not. It is, to some extent, a reflection on the distributors and the users of this gas that they have been using the gas inappropriately. Some may have been, but the costs of this are pretty substantial and they are not all going to be borne by the government.
Mr. Roy: Mr. Speaker, my colleague for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk showed an awful lot of wisdom in the previous business of the House in saying nothing about that particular item. I shall reciprocate and not say anything about this bill.
Mr. T. P. Reid: Mr. Speaker, I know this is the principle of the bill. How much money is this going to cost?
Hon. Mr. Ashe: Mr. Speaker, first of all, let me thank the critics opposite and the House leaders for accommodating the bill this afternoon so that we could get on with this program and start compensating the cash-flow needs of the companies and individuals involved. That was the reason for trying to get it before us as soon as possible.
I think a couple of things need a little clarification, particularly based on a few of the statements made by the member for Welland-Thorold (Mr. Swart). He used the term "gasoline," for example, and of course we are not talking of gasoline at all. We are talking about the middle distillates such as heating oils, diesel fuels and that kind of thing.
I appreciate he says he is bringing it on because of what he was told by others, but I also fail to recognize the particular point of the business of extra transportation costs and delivery costs. That one escapes me. Part of the compensation program recognizes that in the case of some of the distributors, part of their additional cost may involve putting separate compartments in their delivery vehicles. That is one of the things they can receive compensation for. How that would increase the cost of delivery, I do not know.
Mr. Swart: They will be going with half loads sometimes.
Hon. Mr. Ashe: Again, the whole basis of their proposal for compensation is dependent on the makeup of their system, on what they are selling and in what quantities. We have professionals who will be evaluating their needs, not somebody who is not familiar in a professional sense with what their needs will be. We are going that route so there can be intelligent dialogue that will end up with satisfaction in the area of the costs and the future delivery of the product, whether it be coloured or colourless.
As to cost, no additional new cost is being precipitated by this bill. The cost is as identified during the original discussion on the bill last fall. We estimate the capital cost repayment will be something in the area of $4 million at the distributor level. There is no doubt that back at the refineries there are capital costs involved in the permanent injection of coloured dyes, etc.
There is no front-end capital cost recovery to the large multinational oil companies which felt they could finance it on their own. They will be compensated on an ongoing basis at 0.03 cents per litre. That is 30 cents per kilolitre. Over a period of years, guesstimated to be somewhere in the area of seven or eight, they will not only be compensated on an annual basis for the depreciated cost of their capital investment, but operating costs as well, so we feel there should be no pass-through to the consumer from the colouring program.
The reason behind it is that it is estimated there will be net revenues to the government and the system may be kept a little purer than it was. Again it is an estimate, and there is no doubt about that at all, but it is felt to be an educated estimate that something in the order of $25 million is being avoided out there. It is hoped the colour program will bring that into the coffers of the government for its much needed programs.
Motion agreed to.
Third reading also agreed to on motion.
House in committee of supply.
SUPPLEMENTARY ESTIMATES, MINISTRY OF MUNICIPAL AFFAIRS AND HOUSING
On vote 603, municipal affairs program, and vote 2206, Ontario mortgage program:
Mr. Chairman: I call upon the minister to make an opening comment, if he would, to give us some limits for the discussion.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: Mr. Chairman, vote 603 relates to $36,640,400. The explanation for $35 million of it is to advance payments to municipalities before the beginning of our new financial year. The municipalities have requested that the government try to advance payments from January 1 until April 1 to try to reduce the cost of borrowing to the individual municipality. We have accommodated that to the tune of $35 million.
The second portion of the allocation or vote relates to $1,640,400. That is an additional requirement for the Ontario youth employment program. The allocation of funds for the youth employment program is $26.4 million and we have accepted applications from a number of organizations or employers. The applications, generally speaking, far exceed the number of dollars we have for allocation. It has been our experience in the past that about 50 per cent of the applications that are made fall by the wayside before the completion of the program for the year in which they apply.
In the case of the immediate past year, we found only about one third of the applications fell by the wayside. In other words, the allocation of funding, the number of approved applications for participating in the program and the take up on funding, was greater than our experience in the previous years. So the necessity to meet all of the requirements for funding of the Ontario youth employment program will take $1.64 million more than in 1981.
I might say in relationship to the youth employment program that it is one that has been rather successful. Last year it created 53,000 jobs. I am rounding out that figure. It also had almost 22,000 employers participating. One of the areas in which we would like to see greater participation, and which I hope we will be able to stimulate through some of the program initiatives in the coming year, is greater use of it by the farm community. Only 15.5 per cent of the applications in the past year went to the farm community.
One of the pleasing parts of the program is that about 92 per cent of the funding went to the use of small business, in which I am including the farm community. Those are parts of the success of the program and as a result of its success, $1.64 million is required to balance it.
Vote 2206, Ontario mortgage program; item 2, Ontario Mortgage Corporation, is the program for the Ontario rental construction loan program. Our original requirements for funding were predicated on the fact the advance payments would be made at the completion of the building. In other words, at the first mortgage draw by the private sector we would advance all of the funding required for the commitment under the ORCL.
You will recall that as the year progressed extra money was added to the fund to accommodate or stimulate and create more activity in apartment rental construction in Ontario. It was increased from $4,200 per unit to $6,000.
The next item which really caused the need for $2 million at this time was that we would advance 50 per cent of the mortgage loan from the province to be paid at the time the roof line was established. That brought the requirement of the government funds in somewhere between six and nine months earlier than anticipated, at least for 50 per cent of the payment. That is the reason for the $2 million requirement at this time.
Mr. Nixon: Mr. Chairman, I want to speak about all three of the votes if it meets with your approval.
I suppose I might as well begin with the unconditional grants because the concept of paying them in advance is welcome. The interest payments paid by municipalities that have to carry the costs of borrowing for their local programs while they wait for grants has become extremely large. They are cutting more and more into their normal programs.
I sincerely wish some of the minister's colleagues would respond with a similar program. I am thinking particularly of the payment for general welfare assistance at the municipal level. Interest payments made necessary by the delays in remittances from the province, have become a significant additional cost to the municipalities.
In most provinces, the municipal involvement has been abolished with a view to the fact that the large proportion of the costs are paid by the Canada assistance program anyway. So anything that is going to assist the municipalities in this connection is welcome. We should, however, say something about the unconditional grants. As the minister knows, particularly from his former experience in municipal government, the costs at the local level have gone up much more rapidly than the payments from his ministry have expanded.
The minister probably recalls in his early days in politics -- he may have even been on the receiving end at the municipal level -- when a former Treasurer made the firm commitment on behalf of the government of Ontario in those days and his successors, that the grants to the municipalities would go up at least as fast as the cost of providing services went up with inflation.
In those days the inflation rate was at the astronomical and frightening level of about 5.5 per cent. It was not long before the Treasurer's successor had to renounce that commitment and the matter was raised here in the House many times. Certainly the government of the day was criticized by those people with municipal responsibilities, including the present minister in his former incarnation.
It really is a shame that the province has let municipalities down so severely in this connection. It is easy for them to criticize the government of Canada, which in essence has taken the same route. The government of Canada has said the costs of the programs it shares with the provinces have escalated so far beyond the realm of any previous projections, that there has to be a complete reassessment of the provincial-federal sharing techniques that have grown up since 1945.
Much to our consternation, the Parliament of Canada has renounced those sharing techniques and it really means that what we would normally expect to come from the Treasury of Canada in support of all of our programs, including these unconditional grants, is less than we would like.
Looking at the budgetary figures provided a year ago by the Treasurer (Mr. F. S. Miller), if one adds up all of the federal contributions to shared cost programs and those which are unconditional, as well as the federal responsibility to collect our personal income taxes, one soon realizes the government of Canada has the responsibility of raising over 40 per cent of the total number of dollars spent through the Treasury of Ontario. I noted recently when somebody in the east end of Toronto opened yet another William G. Davis school, that in spite of the fact education is 100 per cent a provincial responsibility, there were a good many dollars replacing those provincial dollars, at least to the extent of 40 per cent.
I know Mr. Chairman is beginning to look at me with his piercing grey eyes and is about to wield his gavel. I simply want to point out that the municipalities are deeply disappointed with the decisions taken by the government of Ontario in the establishment of unconditional grants.
Naturally they welcome the speeding up of any payments which are going to reduce the interest costs that normally would accrue to them, but the municipalities are facing pressures that are probably even greater than those we face here, because since 1971 we have learned in Ontario that even though we cannot tax or raise the dollars to cover our expenditures, all we have to do is send down to Salomon Brothers in New York and they send us wads of money to cover our costs.
Our Treasury critic predicts that when the Treasurer gets up nerve enough to come in with another budget, the deficit will be well in excess of $2 billion.
Our municipalities do not have such luxury since their fiscal responsibilities are directly controlled by the government of Ontario through its emanation the Ontario Municipal Board. They must either cut back services or go forward with additional taxation on the restricted tax base to which they have access. In many municipalities taxes have reached their limit and people are banding together to offer the sort of objections that all of us as politicians must recognize and respond to.
It is difficult for the minister in his second row position in this government to have the kind of influence with the Treasurer that would result in additional support for municipalities. It is also difficult, particularly given the Conservative state of mind, to see clear public response in any effort they might make to assist the municipalities in meeting their heavy and growing financial responsibilities.
It has become traditional with the government of Ontario that rather than assist municipalities in a responsible way through the unconditional grant process, they let the municipalities raise local taxes to unconscionably high levels and then come out with high-profile provincial programs whereby the Treasurer, the Minister of Revenue (Mr. Ashe) or the Premier (Mr. Davis) sends a cheque directly to the overburdened local taxpayer, gathering up the political credit, such as it is, in large bags just before an election.
Frankly, I am quite interested that the government of Canada is starting to learn a lesson from the Big Blue Machine in Ontario. They have finally decided they do not want to ship all sorts of money, amounting to 40 per cent of the budget of the province, down here while the politicians representing the government of Ontario gather the political credit to themselves. At both levels, it strikes me as an inadequate basis for a modern democratic government, but there it is.
I do not know whether it was Lorne Henderson or Darcy McKeough who taught so well, but somebody was a good teacher and you people have learned not to support the junior government in any effective way. You let the pressures on them grow and then bring out these expensive provincial programs under which you send out cheques to senior citizens, farmers, or anyone else who is hard pressed and numerous enough to create a favourable response to your political engineering.
I do not like that procedure. The minister himself, a fair-minded person and basically a municipal politician, must flinch from time to time when he sees the attitude of his colleagues towards municipalities. It is regrettable and I wish there was something we could do to change it.
The Edmonton commitment is fading into history and this minister feels hardly a twinge of embarrassment when it is raised because it was his predecessor's predecessor, and perhaps even a couple of generations beyond that, who established his policies in conjunction with John White, who is now looking after Ontario's heritage. I suppose it is fitting that the whole thing be allowed to recede into political history.
I know the minister does make certain municipal commitments of a type which in many respects are not that admirable. There are certain aspects to municipal development where he has made a personal commitment that is almost difficult to understand.
I refer to a very large development in my own constituency, the new town of Townsend, about to eat up its 60-millionth dollar of public funds. All of us were invited to attend a tour and I think about three people finally made it, in spite of the fact that the minister laid on a fine lunch. We were taken to the centre of this new town which will receive some of these unconditional grants, even though it exists only as part of the city of Nanticoke, which is another interesting development based on the policy of the government of Ontario.
The city of Nanticoke is largely a rural area. I believe the minister is familiar with the situation there, which reflects in many respects the inadequacies of the planning at the provincial level that went into the decisions that created that regional government. The city of Nanticoke is responsible for the affairs of Townsend but because of the imposition of provincial policies on them they really have little or no direction or decision-making powers in that respect.
If you go into the centre of this new city you will see that the minister himself, through the Ontario Land Corp., has ordered a development that is really breathtaking. It is quite interesting in that these edifices are all built, the waterways are created and yet there is no one there. It is almost a feeling of building a ghost town in advance as you walk through these great corridors of buildings and see the steps a city block long going down into the artificially created lake. You would swear you are on the shores of the Ganges where the burning steps, or whatever they are, go down into the sacred waters, except there is no one there worshipping or even renting space in the shops the minister has created with so many hundreds of thousands and millions of public dollars of these unconditional grants.
I am very much concerned that the minister, having inherited this strange emanation of the vision of John White, feels constrained to insist that it go forward to fruition. In many respects, he should have followed the example of so many of his predecessors who abandoned some of the programs that had been brought forward at a time when it was obvious that nobody in his right mind would have even undertaken them.
I am not sure whether being in your right mind is the phrase that the minister himself used at the same time his predecessor bought half a township down in eastern Ontario, Edwardsburgh. I think the minister was just about to begin his skyrocketing ascent into the power politics of the Conservative Party when it was rumoured that his predecessor was going to buy that property. I think he said that anybody who bought that property for development would have to be nuts. Wasn't that the word he used?
Mr. Conway: He said, "They must be off their nut."
Mr. Nixon: I am assisted by my friend, the member for Renfrew North. He said at the time, "They must be off their nut." I was a bit mistaken in this connection.
It was done at precisely the same time that the same visionary, John White, who had made the Edmonton commitment they so readily forgot, had bought the properties down in Townsend and South Cayuga that were going to be the twin cities that were going to be the sinecure of all political attention and the visionary development of the new metropolitan Ontario.
Mr. Conway: He was right about Edwards- burgh.
Mr. Nixon: My colleague points out that the minister was entirely right in his first comment about Edwardsburgh. He was successful in persuading his colleagues to abandon their first view of it and I understand it is now an experiment in growing poplar trees for making alcohol. I am not sure what the minister has in mind in that respect but I hope it will eventually be to the benefit of all the members of the House.
I do also want to say something about the youth employment program. This is an extremely serious matter since the minister is well aware that the level of unemployment of those people under 20 years old -- and I believe the statistics usually refer to youth employment as under 25 -- is really appallingly high, and that the program here with an additional $1.6 million is really not going to meet the needs, particularly of the students. This is in addition --
Hon. Mr. Bennett: That is just to cover last year's expenses. It has nothing to do with the current program.
Mr. Nixon: I see. Then I will modify my comments and indicate the fact that you needed $1.6 million more for last year's program is an indication of how inadequate your planning for this year is. I understand your colleague the member for Brantford (Mr. Gillies), who is not in his seat just at this moment, and I certainly do not criticize him for that because I know just how busy he is, has some of the responsibility, in fact one of the main responsibilities, for supervising the distribution of this money in a program which is going to give young people, particularly students, an opportunity for experience. Even more important than that, it will give them an opportunity to earn a few bucks so they can continue their education.
Inadequate government programs in this connection have been of great concern to people in all parties in and out of this House. The statistics are a clear indication that this government has not supported initiatives taken in Ottawa in such a way that we can really see that young people in Ontario are going to have the opportunities they deserve. To cut them off, particularly because of the province's economic downturns, which are greater here than in most other provinces and certainly those to the west of us, has once again applied the sorts of unnatural pressures that see to it that many of these young people leave Ontario, which is to our detriment.
I certainly do not want to say in any way that young people should not go west. I wish I were young enough to respond to that challenge myself, but I have a feeling I would have a little difficulty getting into the Legislature of Alberta, although I understand the Liberals are becoming much more popular out there than they have been.
Mr. Roy: You would not know how to farm out there.
Mr. Nixon: Farmers out there have oil wells in the back 40 and that helps when one is milking cows.
The rental construction loan program is a matter of concern as well. Once again, the minister is indicating that he is getting money to pay for programs that have already been in effect. The minister is aware that because of the inadequacies of the provincial program, something like 15 rental units were constructed by the private sector in the whole city of Toronto. I know he has already indicated his view that ordinary people, whatever they are, should not look forward to living in Toronto anyway. Somehow, it is reserved for people with high incomes or ministers of the crown or something like that.
The fact that government policies right across the board, but particularly having to do with the rental industry, have reduced the initiative in the private sector to such an extent that rental accommodation is simply not being built in the Metropolitan area in any significant way, and in the city of Toronto practically none, must be a matter of grave concern for him.
As members know, the kind of rental accommodation that is built in the city of Toronto is the kind that is built by the minister's buddy, J. J. Barnicke, who has just completed this edifice a few steps from Queen's Park, where I understand some of the minister's colleagues are renting accommodation for $1,000 to $1,200 a month. But, of course, there is a full-time steam-bath there which seems to be a requirement for -- well, anyway, these facilities are the type that have nothing to do with the needs of the community at large.
I presume it was built to accommodate the very special needs of the minister's colleagues who have these fabulous resources at their disposal for their accommodation here in Toronto.
My colleague the member for Erie (Mr. Haggerty) says that it is handy. It is right next door to Suncor, so I suppose that in some respects the two go hand in hand.
Mr. Conway: The minister has a house.
Mr. Nixon: We will leave that for another speech. As good friends of the minister, I suppose in the long run since the money is already spent, we will have to support this additional $38 million. We do not want to leave him high and dry, and of course, we also do not want to spend the time to divide the House, but we are concerned with the direction of the minister's policy. We will have a better opportunity to deal with it in detail during the general estimate discussion.
Mr. Breaugh: Mr. Chairman, I want to touch briefly on some matters of concern to me under the unconditional grants. One thing that bothers me a bit is that this kind of an opener is in place. Perhaps it is an indication that we are going to see kind of a trickle down effect, if you will pardon me using those words, this year and perhaps in the foreseeable future from the federal government's position to adopt funding mechanisms quite similar in fact to what Ontario has made a pattern of over the last few years. That is, they will begin the process of entering into the game of really cutting back financial transfer payments to other levels of government, but confuse it with the argument that the dollar amount is perhaps the same or slightly larger but percentages are not to be considered.
In the federal House, Bill C-97 is the beginning of the federal government's realization that the technique, which has been used by Ontario in dealing with its municipalities, school boards and hospitals over the last few years, is one the federal government is now going to use to put the brakes on expenditures. The difficulty is reflected in this amount of money before us now. It is very difficult for a municipal government to get a good handle on its financial future, or in fact on its actual financial picture this year, when the government of Ontario continues to put forward unconditional grants in this form. It is unfortunate that municipalities across the province cannot have a more concrete commitment about funding on a longer term than this government is prepared to provide to them.
This amount of money is an indication that our municipalities are in trouble financially. Many of them have severe economic difficulties at a time when both senior levels of government are putting the brakes on their transfer payments, and when their local economy is flat on its rear end. In most of our automotive communities we are now beginning the process of trying to reflect the impact of unemployment and high interest rates on the local economy in the city's budget for this year.
In Oshawa, Windsor, St. Thomas, Oakville and in several other parts of Ontario, municipal governments are going to have to recognize that people who do not have jobs and people who are threatened with the loss of their houses because they cannot afford the interest rates are going to have some difficulty coming up with financing at a local level. Whether one is talking about a property tax or, in some instances, payment for the use of a facility, or whether it is a licensing fee, the hard fact remains that a municipality in that kind of condition now has to make a hard assessment of that impact on the local budget.
It would be reassuring to think the government of Ontario, in its budget, was preparing some kind of community adjustment fund to deal with those local municipalities and the problems it knows they are going to have this year. It would also be comforting to know that the province had informed those municipalities of what they might expect, because all of them are now attempting to finalize budget procedures, attempting to nail down for the forthcoming fiscal year what their revenues will be, where they will get them, either from the province or from their local residents. They are going to have some difficulty.
Ontario is making some small move here to accommodate them with the moneys that are allocated in this particular vote. That is not to say this amount of money is a small amount by a long shot, but in terms of operational accounts for municipalities across the province it is a rather minuscule part of the budget process they will go through. They are going to have great difficulty this year in my area and in almost every area you can name. You cannot go through the newspapers anywhere in Ontario without seeing a reflection of the economic times in which we live, or without seeing there are plants closing in every one of our communities.
There were people demonstrating in downtown Toronto this afternoon about the effect of interest rates on their lives, on their homes, on the businesses where they work and on the things they used to buy but no longer will buy. So there is going to be a dramatic impact on municipal budgets all through the course of this year. I have some hope that the government of Ontario is beginning to realize that is going to be dramatic. It is going to be a matter of great concern, I suppose, in Treasury, when the government puts together its budget this year, as to how it will address itself to that.
Many of us who came out of municipal politics will understand that unconditional grants originally sounded like a good idea, because the basic premise was that they are grants that do not have conditions on them but essentially are operational grants going to municipalities. They sounded like a good thought because originally they were proposed to us on the basis that they would give municipalities a little more freedom. What somebody forgot to tell us, I guess, was that you sometimes have to beg to get them. In the course of any given year you will see a stream of municipal officials parading around Queen's Park trying to find ministers in their offices, arranging little meetings here, there and all over the place, to try to get their share of the pie.
In theory, the funding arrangements are reasonably clear. In practice they are not, and every municipality in the province depends on access to the minister to see if it can make its pitch to get its share of this. Many members have recognized that the government of Ontario uses unconditional grants as a kind of rescue operation. It is the other side of the process. We are saying that if the unconditional grants program is the floor for municipal expenditures and one builds on that from programs the province has devised and runs through its municipalities, it might not be quite so bad. In fact, the province moves more and more into identification with moneys it gives out to individuals in our communities.
I guess the senior citizens' property tax is the classic example of this government's determination to get individual home owners to understand that the cheques in their hot little hands come from the province. It advertises extensively on television to make sure that message is heard. The only slipup has been that it seems to have demonstrated over the last year and a half an inability to deliver a program. It screws up, fouls up and delays, and all the while it is doing that, it is tantalizing the population with this message: "All these moneys are available to you. All you have to do is ask." Quite logically, the people of Ontario are asking and are unable to get much of an answer.
In that sense, the unconditional grants program is fraught with problems and difficulties. This year we are going to face an economy that is in trouble. To be more specific, we are going to face several municipalities that will have grave difficulties balancing the books.
I anticipate the restraint program will be continued from the federal government to the provincial government and eventually the people who will have to face the music will be those who sit on municipal councils. They will have to bear the brunt of that. They will take considerable abuse. The alternative will be to raise property taxes for a population which may not be able to meet the property taxes if they were left where they are.
There is going to be a jam-up in the system. Unfortunately, I predict the jam-up will occur most directly, and first and foremost, at the municipal level. It is going to be difficult to deal with.
The second matter I want to deal with is the youth employment program. It goes back to some comments I just made. This economy is in dire straits and, if the Prime Minister is looking for it, that is where it is. This summer there will be nothing for all kinds of young people who traditionally would have gone into places like auto plants for summer work, and who depended on that bit of financial security over a six- or eight-week period, and sometimes a bit longer, to raise money for things like tuition fees to go back to school, to clothe themselves and similar kinds of expenditure.
It is going to have to be recognized that a program like the youth employment program with all of its faults will have to be dramatically extended, because there are no jobs in those plants for regular workers, let alone student employees over the summer. Some device in a far more efficient form than this youth employment program will have to be put in place to take care of the young unemployed over the course of this summer.
The situation is going to be of dramatic proportions, because the places they would normally go to for employment are going to be shut down. The places they would normally turn to are going to be places having great difficulty holding on to their existing permanent staff. The work they might look for with a municipality, for example, is going to be precisely the kind of program the municipalities will have to start chopping away at.
The government of Ontario will have to regear that program. It will have to make it far more effective and extensive than it has been in past experience.
A lot of what people anticipated from this youth employment program did not materialize. People felt there would be opportunities for jobs in small businesses and on the farms. It is my sad information that on the ground, where that thing happened, those jobs in many cases did not materialize at all. In fact, there was considerable exploitation of young people who thought they were getting into some program operated in part by Ontario. That was not necessarily true, but that was their perception. They found themselves getting into slave workshop situations.
It is unfortunate the government would participate in programs without any supervision of the nature of the program, and without any real checking and assessment of whether the program worked and provided employment for young people at decent rates of pay in decent working conditions.
I wanted to bring those two points to the attention of the House. There are several members of the caucus who want to participate in the debate and I want to make room for them. In particular, there are many who want to talk about the second part of this vote, on the Ontario Mortgage Corp.
Mr. Roy: Mr. Chairman, I thought I should make a very few brief comments pertaining to these three items. I have been a keen observer of the demeanour of the minister over all the years going back to our common election in 1971 in Ottawa, and I have seen a look of joy and happiness on the minister's face since he has been given the combined portfolio of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
I can recall his frustration at being Minister of Housing when the job at times resembled that of leader of the Opposition. You get all the abuse, all the dirty jobs and none of the glory of having a position of importance. Now he has the Municipal Affairs portfolio, and he has the potential to visit right across the province. Knowing his enthusiasm for being present when the cheques are given out, I think he will somehow work it on the basis that if all the unconditional grants, the $35 million, could be reduced to numbers of cheques and he could visit all the major municipalities to hand over the cheques personally, he will attempt to do so.
I know he greatly enjoys this type of local community participation, getting together with some of his municipal colleagues. When the minister is delivering government funds and participating in giving out these cheques, he displays as much enthusiasm as if the money were coming out of his own pocket. He makes people feel grateful for his good humour and largess in coming down and personally handing out the cheques. Obviously all these situations greatly improve his demeanour.
I support my colleague the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk and his criticism that because of government abuses in other areas -- he talked about the various housing town sites that have been referred to, the new cities, the pipe dreams of former Treasurer John White -- the minister has seen fit to perpetuate these cities, except in some cases.
My colleague did not mention that one of these sites was not designated for a city, but for a waste dump. As long as it was in a Liberal riding, that was acceptable. If the minister were more conscious of the waste in other areas, there would be more funds for municipalities to be able to meet the burden they currently have because of the great demand on the municipalities for services.
Of all the ministers here, he has been as critical as any when a federal-provincial program is cut back or discontinued, talking about irresponsibility at the federal government level. The same thing happens at the municipal level when a provincial-municipal program is cut back. I am convinced, as my colleague has said, that if there were a cutback in waste in many areas, there would be more money for unconditional grants, for youth employment, for rentals and so on. It bothers me to see such waste.
Just recently I had occasion to read our national magazine, Maclean's, which I am sure you read on a regular basis, Mr. Chairman. In the March 22 issue I saw the minister's name prominently displayed in an ad, which is one the Chairman will find interesting, because it talks about waste.
The ad, which appeared one day after the first day of spring, asks, "Are you going to spend another winter heating the great outdoors?" Here is a full-page ad in Maclean's from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing telling people they should be looking closely at winterizing their homes, while we are in the spring season.
I do not know how much this ad cost and I do not know whether the ad appeared in previous issues of Maclean's, but I consider it to be a waste of taxpayers' money to tell people to do something after the fact. I want to say to the minister, generally speaking --
Hon. Mr. Bennett: There will not be another winter?
Mr. Roy: There will not be another winter? The minister should know something about timing, having conducted so many elections. It is just like putting up billboards now for the election in 1986.
Hon. Mr. Bennett: That bothers you, doesn't it? That bothers you.
Mr. Roy: I say the House deserves an explanation as to why he would waste thousands of dollars telling people to winterize their homes in the spring. He states in the ad itself, and I underlined this, "During the winter, the drafts are stronger and colder so it is easier to find them." But the winter is over. We are into spring. Not even he could have predicted the inclement weather.
This is the type of waste and bad timing that he and his colleagues in the government are guilty of. If this is the type of competence his people in the ministry are exhibiting in the processing of these grants, in the processing of housing and in last year's funding of youth employment, it is not very promising. I think the people of Ontario deserve an explanation for the waste of public funds.
I will not take any time in the House just now to talk about the grant the minister is going to receive for his own private housing. It may be the subject of some other discourse. Again, that is an abuse of public funds by the minister. But that will be the subject of some further discussion.
Mr. Philip: Mr. Chairman, I would like to deal with just a couple of issues, in particular under the Ontario Mortgage Corp. There is a nonprofit corporation known as the Annex Community Corp. which exists on Madison Avenue in downtown Toronto. As I understand it, 14 units are rent-geared-to-income units in that nonprofit housing corporation.
The project consists of nine houses and an apartment building of 12 apartments. The corporation came into existence about eight years ago, but the Ontario Housing Corp. has been paying its portion of the old mortgage since January. However, in September, an additional mortgage had to be floated because of additional construction costs of some $800,000.
The mortgage was added to the original mortgage at eight per cent through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., because of the additional construction costs, which had not been anticipated. This project has been in the process of being developed over a period of years and has run into various kinds of zoning problems, the need to consult with the heritage foundation and so forth.
OHC, I understand, is now only paying its share at the original mortgage cost, and I believe that on January 26, 1982, that corporation provided information that was requested by this ministry, to the attention of Mr. A. Gorizzan. At the same time the corporation is having to subsidize the rent-geared-to-income, or OHC tenants if you like, from the rents of the nonsubsidized tenants, who are paying at the new rate as of April 1.
I hope the minister will look into this and see whether he can find out what is holding up OHC's portion and whether OHC will be increasing its payments so that the nonsubsidized tenants do not have to carry the extra burden.
The other matter I would like to discuss deals with the rental construction program. There is desperate shortage of rent-geared-to-income housing in Metro Toronto at the moment; around 14,000 households, representing approximately 35,000 people, are on the waiting list for assisted housing.
The Ontario community housing assistance program has not delivered any significant increase in the rent-geared-to-income units in the co-operative and nonprofit sectors, with less than 100 units in Metro Toronto committed since April 1, 1981.
The private rent supplement program has not been able to expand its program appreciably, with only nine new units signed on in 1981 and 93 units dropped off; thus we had, in 1981, a depletion of 84 units in Metro.
The Ontario rental construction loan program, which is spending $90 million, is creating 5,230 units in Metro but none of them will necessarily be committed to rent supplements. There is no binding agreement that guarantees any of the units will be rent-supplemented. Even though the contract requires that up to 25 per cent of the units in a complex must be offered, it does not have a binding requirement that they be offered.
One must admit that the ORCL program has been fairly generous to certain areas west of here, such as the Bramalea area. Part of this we can understand, because that is where land is readily available -- some 1,245 units for subsidy in Brampton. The turnover rate in the OHC portfolio in Metro has been declining steadily in the past three years: 12 per cent in 1979, 11 per cent in 1980 and 10 per cent in 1981.
My question to the minister is, what do you intend to do about increasing the critical shortage of rent-assisted housing in Metro? It appears that this is not substantially on the increase in proportion to the number of people who very badly need it in this time of recession.
Is the minister willing to guarantee that the maximum number of units under ORCL will be taken up under the rent supplement program, that they will be guaranteed and not just an option? Will the minister also consider adding increased funding and flexibility to OCHAP to permit municipal nonprofits, co-operatives and private nonprofits to vary the number of rent-geared-to-income units; in other words, to increase it above the limits now imposed on it?
Those are a few of the questions I hope the minister will find interesting and might like to respond to.
Ms. Bryden: Mr. Chairman, I believe we are dealing with both votes together. I have one question on the student employment program. My colleague mentioned the great need for increasing that program this year, particularly in view of the layoffs in the auto plants and other industrial sectors where people used to get summer jobs.
There is another area where summer employment is badly needed and this government's programs do not cover it at present. The minister should be considering it for his own ministry in particular, and he should be urging the extension of the program I am going to suggest to the cabinet in general.
I am referring to the problem of mature students at universities, those who are over 25 and who get cut out of most of the student employment programs on the ground that they are not considered to be youths. They are university or college students who have courses that run over more than one year. They therefore need summer employment to earn a proportion of their tuition fees.
I urge the minister to consider allotting additional funds to provide employment for those students. I hope he will urge the cabinet to do the same in other ministries. That is my first point. Is the minister going to deal with all of these together?
The Deputy Chairman: The minister is accumulating the points of the different presentations and will then respond.
Ms. Bryden: I also want to speak about the Ontario Mortgage Corp. I understand the corporation has renewed a considerable number of mortgages this year and that the interest rates are now tied to, or are somewhat below, the National Housing Act rates.
When a renewal comes up, if there is going to be a substantial increase in the interest rate will the ministry consider some relief for those people who may face large increases in their mortgage payments? Is the ministry considering or is it actually following a practice of moderating that increase, either by extending the amount of the mortgage at the far end to keep the increase down or by some of the other devices that have been suggested to relieve those who are in what is now known as dire straits?
Under the mortgage corporation, the ministry is a fairly large mortgage holder and should be leading the way in showing some compassion for people who face large interest rate increases and in working out some system to postpone those increases for a period until the person can adjust or until interest rates come down. With the government following slavishly the interest rate policies of Ottawa, we do not seem to be doing much to bring them down. That is my first question on the mortgage corporation.
The other thing is that the ministry did put in the Ontario rental construction loan program last year. Its initial target was 10,000 units, which was then raised to 15,000. I would like to know how many units we have achieved already and when we can expect to reach the 15,000 units. I would like to know whether the program has really dried up. The interest-free loan is still at $6,000 and probably is not sufficient to attract people into the market in the light of present construction costs and the problem of providing affordable housing.
The New Democratic Party has produced its program for increasing rental housing; it was outlined by our leader about four weeks ago in a speech. We propose that if the government is going to increase rental housing, and all of us agree that it is very necessary to put big money into it, it has to put interest-free loans of at least $10,000 on the market. The government has to aim for at least 15,000 units in the next year to even begin to meet the demand and stimulate the construction industry.
It seems to me this is an opportunity to do two things at once: stimulate the construction industry, which is very badly underemployed at the moment, and increase the number of rental housing units. But it cannot be done without putting very substantial sums into the rental construction loan program.
I would also like to ask whether the rental construction loan program extends to co-operatives and municipal nonprofit housing. It seems to me that we should be developing these sectors. The private sector has shown it is neither able nor willing to produce affordable rental housing; it has simply copped out or is using any land it has to provide luxury housing.
Instead, we must provide land through land banking programs, which would include loans for purchasing redevelopment lands and grants for writing down the cost of redevelopment lands. These lands should be made available to co-ops and nonprofit municipal housing bodies. They, in turn, have to get their mortgage money from somewhere. They can get a certain amount from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. at certain interest rates. But if we are going to get the stimulation we need to counteract the severe housing industry decline this year, I think we have to put up substantial sums of money.
The money could be raised through a housing investment bond, which really would be an investment in capital assets for this province -- capital assets that are very badly needed. I think it is time for the ministry to start looking at this sort of a program and considering exactly what has to be done to get the housing industry going again.
In particular, the minister should be looking at the situation in Metropolitan Toronto, where the vacancy rate is now 0.4 per cent and where people are being turned out of affordable housing so that it can be redeveloped into luxury housing. Since we do not have demolition control over such activities, our apartments are being turned into condominiums. We do not have laws that stop reconversion on a province-wide basis.
The housing crisis in Metropolitan Toronto is becoming very serious. Last night at city hall in Toronto, close to 200 people assembled to discuss the housing crisis before the neighbourhoods committee. That committee had something like 70 recommendations before it from the mayor's conference on housing. Those recommendations dealt with a great many areas in which the minister could help, particularly in providing mortgages for rental construction and nonprofit housing development.
I think the minister will be hearing from representatives of the city of Toronto on what they expect him to do to help them solve the housing crisis in Metropolitan Toronto. I hope he will be looking at their proposals and all these recommendations, most of which were adopted last night.
Another thing he should be looking at is our new Innovation Development for Employment Advancement Corp.
The House recessed at 6:01 p.m.